The Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday took a major step toward stabilizing their offensive line when left tackle Donald Penn signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent. A team official confirmed the signing.
In February, the Bucs retained a right of first refusal on Penn by tendering him at the highest level, worth $2.792 million, carrying first- and third-round draft picks as compensation. It was enough to scare potential suitors.
Penn was one of just two restricted free agents to receive the first- and third-round tender. The other was New Orleans guard Jahri Evans, who has yet to sign his tender.
The league deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets is April 17.
Barring an extension, or the Bucs' use of a transition or franchise tag, Penn will be an unrestricted free agent next spring. Tampa Bay officials, however, have made clear their intent to negotiate a long-term contract with the left tackle.
Penn, 25, has been the Bucs' starting left tackle for two seasons. He started all 16 games in 2008.
The former Utah State standout, who started 44 games in college at both tackle spots, entered the league as an undrafted college free agent with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006. Tampa Bay signed Penn off the Minnesota practice squad in the second month of that season.
After not playing a game as a rookie, Penn won the starting left tackle job during the 2007 season. Penn has appeared in 32 games with 28 starts.
Len Pasquarelli is senior writer for ESPN.com.