Every time a player holds out for contract reasons, there is an army of fans who always take the side of the organization and curse the player. He’s ‘all about the money’ and ‘doesn’t care about the team’ and ‘he signed a contract and should honor it’.
Those same people are the ones who constantly scream for teams to cut players who they think are underperforming their contracts. It’s essentially rooting for a uniform with little or no regard for the person inside that uniform. As if they’re mindless pawns who are here to be used and abused and so long as they get paid more than your average factory worker, they should be thankful.
That’s not how any of this works. Nor should it. The players ARE the game and so long as there is a rabid demand for the NFL, the players deserve to be paid their value as a portion of the money allotted for salaries.
Donald Penn was a Pro Bowler last year in the second year of a very friendly 2-year deal he signed with the Raiders that pays him $5.9 million in base salary. That’s 19th in the NFL for left tackles and 23rd among all tackles. He wants to be paid like the top ten left tackle that he is. So, he did the only thing a player can do — he withheld his services by not showing up for camp.
Once camp was done, he returned to the team. Even though he hadn’t received the deal he wanted, or any deal at all.
“I came back for my teammates and my coaches,” Penn told media following Saturday’s preseason game in Dallas. “We have a good thing going. I knew that it was Week 3 (of the preseason), and that I needed to get ready for (the regular season). At the end of the day, I have to make sure I’m the best Donald Penn on Sundays for my team and my teammates. That’s why I made the decision to come back.”
Penn’s return comes with promises by Reggie McKenzie that the Raiders would work out a new contract with him. Those assurances were said to be rather vague, so there has been no contract figures even verbally agreed upon. But according to Penn, that’s the plan.
“We have a great owner, a good GM. I came in here putting my trust in them,” Penn continued. “That’s what they told me. I’m going to sit here and wait and control what I can control. That’s trying to get better from what I put out there today.”
Penn is doing his part. The Raiders have plenty of cap space ($13 million) in order to make him a top ten paid LT outright. But at very least they need to put together a deal with a respectable base salary and incentives that would allow Penn to earn the contract figure he desires. It makes absolutely no sense to keep him hanging and unhappy heading into the season.
They have two weeks to get to get that done. And it would be a very bad look if they do not.