By now, it is common knowledge that Donald Penn is on the clock with the Raiders new Head Coach. Whereas for the last three seasons, Penn enjoyed as much job security as Carr, Mack, or Cooper. This season, the team issued an ultimatum. “Take a pay cut or take a hike”. That should not surprise,considering his advancing age. However, it is rare a team that leaned on its line so much to abruptly change its tune. After having given him a raise, due to his off-season holdout, it is clear that Jon Gruden does not have the same investment in Penn.
Donald Penn’s stock was at an all time low when he was brought to the Raiders during the 2014 offseason. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. For eight years, he operated the blind side for Tampa Bay but found himself released. To the Raiders, he served as a stabilizer for an offensive line that was still being built. For years, Penn served as the anchor. Signing for just under $3 Million, he was a steal as he did not miss games, bonded well with the rookie quarterback. Overall, he demonstrated the kind of leadership the Raiders lacked for over a decade on the line. However, it has not all been good for Penn during his time with the Silver and Black.
No person in their right mind would hold injuries against a player who had been an absolute iron man. Regardless of the colors he wore on Sunday, Penn played hard. Conversely, no person should ignore the stark differences in play for anyone over 30 and sustaining a foot injury.
This was largely reflected in the draft. The Raiders added two tackles that will compete for positions on both the right and left side. Kolton Miller appears as the most likely candidate to eventually replace Donald Penn. Brandon Parker, the other tackle selected, seems like he could land on the right side to plug the largest hole on the offense. If Penn calls Gruden’s bluff and refuses to take a pay cut, either player could see action. With Gruden placing so much pressure on his own coaching staff, a move could occur. Likely, the single most important reason why Penn remains on the roster is continuity and comfort with the man to his right All-Pro Left Guard Kelechi Osemele.
In all likelihood Donald Penn is about as safe as he can be considering his age. Also, factor in positional value, and continuity factor. Yet, he also has far less freedom and influence amongst this current coaching staff. More than anything though, Penn is probably within the last three seasons of his career and the Raiders are trying to avoid overpaying an aging player. He could do wonders for himself with a bounce back season and perhaps squeeze out one more contract. Instead, though, it is more likely that this is his final season with his hometown team.