And so it's come to this. Two years since the Raiders signed Donald Penn to replace the departed Jared Veldheer, it's now Penn who having a very similar experience that Veldheer had following the 2013 season.
Veldheer had come to the end of his 4-year rookie contract and as a top-10 left tackle at just 26 years of age, and with interest in returning to the team and the Raiders flush with cash to bring him back, it seemed like a no-brainer. And yet in the early part of the offseason, talks broke off and come March, Veldheer was allowed to leave and sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
After the start of free agency, Donald Penn was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Raiders, still with no left tackle in place, scooped him up on a 2-year deal. That contract is now up and the 33-year-old Penn wants to return, but finds he is not receiving the same interest from the Raiders. In fact, he is not hearing anything from them at all.
"I'm not going to lie. I'm a little disappointed in the Oakland Raiders right now," Penn told CSN California Friday. "That's just me being honest. I don't talk to my agent about deals during the season because I like to focus on my play. But, going into the offseason we talked and my agent said he talked to the team and they said they want me back and want me back. That's what they told me before I left, but I haven't heard from them since the season ended."
"This is the part of football that I hate. Derek [Carr] and I have a great relationship. (Left guard) Gabe Jackson and I have a great relationship. I have a great relationship with the entire offensive line. I built that over two years. I would love to see that continue, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens next."
Compare this to what Jared Veldheer said at this same time two years ago in an interview with Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game, almost to the day (February 3, 2014).
"I'm hoping that some kind of deal happens here soon," Veldheer said at that time. "I've expressed many times that I want to stay here. I really love the team, I love my teammates, the coaches, and I really feel like this is the place for me. It would be good to kinda have some urgency in this and move this along so it doesn't creep up to that date where maybe something has to happen that's not in the long term. This is a place I want to be at for the rest of my career if I could."
Just over a month after Veldheer said these words, he was a member of the Arizona Cardinals. And a few weeks after that, Reggie McKenzie was insisting Veldheer "didn't want to come back. It wasn't about finances. The kid didn't want to play for the Raiders anymore."
As a result, many Raiders fans were quick to say Veldheer was not telling the truth - as fans typically do with players who are not donning their team's uniform anymore. And even though the exact same thing seems to be happening with Donald Penn now, is there any questioning Penn's honesty when he says he wants to return to the Raiders? I would hope not, considering Penn is a lifelong Raiders fan and has wanted to play the rest of his career for them..
Being that Penn will be 33-years-old in April, it would make more sense should the Raiders decide they would like to move on at left tackle and get younger. Naturally, that's something they wouldn't have to worry about now had they made Veldheer a priority two years ago. It was just this type of lack of contact between the team and Veldheer that had him begin to explore his options. That's just what Penn says he and his agent will begin to do now.
"I'm really disappointed, and I'm starting to look at other opportunities," Penn said. "As man and a player, we have to start looking at other things. Me and my agent are starting to put together a group of teams that need a left tackle and things like that.
"We'll see what happens next. I did everything I could. I had two great seasons, two of the best of my career. You know, it's a great time to be a free agent for me."
If anything, this situation repeating itself should offer some idea of how things could play out with Penn. Though with the veteran offensive tackle in the twilight of his career, he won't get near the same interest as Veldheer did entering his prime.
It's possible in this instance, and perhaps with Veldheer as well, the Raiders are banking on Penn realizing Oakland is his best option and re-signing to a friendly contract. Though with some $68 million under the cap currently, it makes no sense for the Raiders to do that if they want him back.
If Penn does come to that conclusion, it may not take place until after the start of free agency once Penn tests the market. At which point if the Raiders haven't signed his replacement, they will either hope Penn hasn't signed elsewhere or be forced to look ahead to the draft.