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Bucs LT Penn drops 35 pounds, could ask for trade without new deal

Donald Penn, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting left tackle, has curbed a weight issue that dogged him last season, but he remains dissatisfied with the lack of a new contract.

Penn, whose first- and third-round tender essentially prevents him from receiving an offer sheet by Thursday's deadline, hasn't been able to land a long-term deal with the Bucs. Should that not change quickly, there's a strong possibility Penn could demand a trade before next week's NFL draft and inform the Bucs he will not sign his restricted free agent tender until the preseason, a league source said Wednesday.

Penn has performed at a Pro Bowl level at times during his career, and though he's seeking greater consistency, he would have received abundant interest from other teams had he been granted a first-round tender. The Bucs know this and, smartly, are trying to protect their asset. But like the Brandon Marshall case, at some point, a team either must provide a fair-market, long-term deal to top young talent or try to get what it can in a trade.

There had been some reports linking the Bucs to Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung with the No. 3 overall draft pick, but barring them dealing Penn, that seems unlikely.

Penn's weight ballooned to around 370 pounds at the end of last season, but he has altered his diet and revamped his lifestyle and is down to about 335 pounds. He's working with a nutritionalist, and his meals come from a company that specializes in healthy content. Penn also is working with a sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Zervais, and a personal trainer.

Part of Penn's malaise last season came because the Bucs rescinded a long-term offer to him before the season, according to a source close to the player. Bucs officials indicated they wanted to see Penn in better shape, and a member of the coaching staff recently visited the lineman to check on his weight and gave a strong report back to the organization, according to a league source.

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are among the teams interested in upgrading at left tackle. The Cowboys, who recently cut veteran Flozell Adams, possess a late first-round pick that could be dangled in a trade. The Redskins need multiple tackles, and though very likely to draft Okung No. 4 overall, they still could make a play for a restricted free-agent tackle. However, without a second- and a third-round selection in 2010, they likely would need to acquire picks for a player such as defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, defensive end Andre Carter or safety LaRon Landry before being able to land a tackle or work out a deal that involved players.

New Orleans Saints tackle Jammal Brown also is a candidate to be involved in a trade ahead of the draft, as is the Baltimore Ravens' Jared Gaither. The Ravens would take a high-second-round pick as the crux of a trade for Gaither, according to team sources.

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