Donald Penn has played like an elite left tackle since signing with the Oakland Raiders in 2014. His first contract was for two years, $9.6 million, with $4.2 million guaranteed. Then his second contract was for two years, $14 million with roughly $7 million guaranteed. The price for a tackle that plays at Penn’s level starts at around $11 million.
So in the middle of it, he held out for money that was more becoming of a left tackle of his caliber as well as some security. And that led to many in Raider Nation to suggest he’s not a team player.
When you can tell me where you can find another elite left tackle for that price, I’ll listen to you. Penn had the leverage because quarterback Derek Carr just got $125 million and needs to be healthy so he did what a good business man does.
Fast forward to 2018 and the leverage shifts as the Raiders took left tackle Kolton Miller in the first round.
Just as Penn was starting to get paid what he deserves, the Raiders, in the opinion of many, reached for a left tackle to replace him. So he naturally got angry at first but he calmed down, he eventually took the 1st-round pick under his wing.
“Growing up when I was coming up, I had some good vets that did the same to me,” Penn said after practice Tuesday. “I’m not stupid, I’m not dumb. I’m 35-years-old. I’m not going to be playing football — I don’t want to play football — too much longer myself. I understand what’s going on here. I’m just trying to help as much as possible because when I do leave here, I’m going to leave friends here. DC [Derek Carr] is a great friend. Doug [Martin], Gabe [Jackson], everybody.
“Kolton, me and Kolton, we’re developing a good friendship. So I want to have him ready so when he goes out there he can succeed. It’s not like I’m over here jealous or mad. I’m trying to help the kid out so the kid can be as good as possible because it’s going to help us out as a team.”
Penn has been mentoring Miller while on the PUP list and just as he was to come off the PUP, the Raiders asked him to take a pay cut. And to go with the pay cut, they asked him to start working at the right tackle position for a possible permanent switch. Most people in that position would tell general manager Reggie McKenzie where to stick it and go to an AFC West rival team. But instead, he accepted the shrunken salary and possible position switch.
“They talked to me about it, about trying it out. Seeing what it would do. Seeing how I feel over there and I told them I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win,” said Penn. “If you guys feel like this is going to be in the best interest of the team, I’ll do it.”
He’s been the best left tackle in the AFC West over the last few years and Russell Okung of the Los Angeles Chargers is his closest competition. So a team like the Denver Broncos, especially with the trouble they’ve had at left tackle lately, would love to have him. But the Southern California native has always wanted to be a Raider and remains loyal.
The Raiders are trying Penn at right tackle because they want the best five guys starting and Miller, their future franchise left tackle, to focus on one side. They don’t want to see another situation like last year, when they had Marshall Newhouse at right tackle. So Penn is looking to successfully convert to the right side while helping Miller become that guy at left tackle.
Penn has always wanted to be and still wants to be a Raider. And with his career winding down, all he’s interested in these days is winning with the Raiders. He could have easily went to a team like the Broncos and gave them a much-needed blindside protector. Instead, He accepted a pay cut and maybe a position switch to remain in Silver & Black. So there should be no more talk about Penn not being a team guy.