TAMPA — It was not a coincidence that Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown sat down for his news conference Thursday with fellow newcomer Anthony Collins sitting immediately to his left.
As general manager Jason Licht pointed out, Collins is going to spend a lot of time on McCown's blind side.
The Bucs continued the overhaul of the their offensive line Thursday by signing Collins, 28, to a five-year contract and releasing former starting left tackle Donald Penn.
“Anthony is a veteran who has played and started on the left side, on the right side, and he has some experience at guard,” Licht said of Collins, a reserve swing tackle with the Cincinnati Bengals during his first six NFL seasons. “But he's a natural left tackle, and we're excited to have him as our new starting left tackle.”
Penn, a 2011 Pro Bowler who played in 112 games and started the past 108 at left tackle for the Bucs, struggled down the stretch in 2013. He allowed nine sacks, three quarterback hits and six quarterback hurries in the final six games, according to ProFootballFocus.
Penn joined two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph as the second starting offensive lineman to be released.
In a text message to the Tribune, Penn thanked Bucs fans for their support and said he will miss Tampa, but “on 2 bigger and better things.”
Penn's release rid the Bucs of his $7.5 million salary and left them with approximately $15 million in salary cap space three days into the 2014 free-agency signing period. Already one of the most active teams in the market with six new players, the Bucs have the finances to continue shopping, and Licht said they will likely do that.
Collins' deal is worth $30 million, including $15 million in guaranteed payouts, according to a source with knowledge of the transaction.
“It's such a surprise to see a guy thrown into the starting lineup and actually see their team perform better,” Licht said of Collins, who made seven starts, including five down the stretch for the Bengals, in place of an injured teammate. “And that's not meant as a knock on any other player. It's just that, when he got his opportunity, he performed.”
Collins has never been a starting left tackle from the beginning of the season.
“I'm comfortable with it,” he said. “A lot of people get uncomfortable when they get put into positions with pressure. I'm very comfortable with pressure — very. So, it's going to be easy for me.”