Donald Penn ranks among the NFL's best offensive tackles. He wants to get paid like one. That's why the 34-year old didn't report to Raiders training camp on Friday and won't participate in Saturday's opening practice.
He wants to rework his contract before returning to the field, looking for pay commiserate with recent production.
Penn had an excellent 2016 season, allowing just 28 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps. He gave up just one sack, but it was a big one. Penn slipped in Week 16 against Indianapolis, which set up the hit that ended Derek Carr's season.
That doesn't ruin a solid season where Penn ranked No. 6 among all offensive tackles in pass blocking efficiency. He was awesome in the run game as well, with large totals rushing behind him in a Pro Bowl campaign.
It's hard to argue Penn's claim that he's a Top 10 left tackle. His paycheck doesn't reflect that. Penn signed a two-year deal in the 2016 offseason worth up to $11.9 million. He's scheduled to earn a $5.8 million base salary in 2017 and $7.1 million in total cash. That ranks 20th among offensive tackles. Buffalo's Cordy Glenn ranks 10th in total 2017 cash at $11 million.
The Raiders can afford to increase Penn's rate. They should have $14.825 million in salary cap space after releasing Austin Howard and Taiwan Jones.
Just because they have money doesn't mean they'll spend it on Penn. They could play hardball and fine him up to $40,000 per day for missing camp. They can ignore renegotiation requests and demand Penn play out his current contract. There's no current indication how the front office will react to the fact Penn wants a raise.
Withholding services is his protest. He has a solid case and some leverage, considering the Raiders don't have another option at left tackle and a $25 million quarterback in Carr.
Penn hasn't explained his decision publicly, but spoke with NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest about the situation.
"He's looking at it like, ‘well I don't make anywhere near some of the top tackles in the league, I'm durable, I've only missed one game in 11 years, I've played against the best pass rushers, I protect the guy that you just gave $110 million to (QB Derek Carr),'" McGinest said Friday on air. "I can go on and on. He just wants to be appreciated. He feels like the extension he got a couple of years ago, the $11.9 million for two years, was pretty much a bargain. He figured in good faith that they (the Raiders) would come back and redo his deal because they understand what he's worth to that team and what he does for that team."
McGinest also said Penn isn't frustrated with big dollars doled out to other Raiders offensive lineman. Kelechi Osmele ($58.5 million) and Rodney Hudson ($44.5 million) got paid in recent offseason, and Gabe Jackson signed a $56 million extension last month.
Penn is older and unsure how much longer he wants to play, so any bump would come in the short term. An extension might be the last of Penn's career, the last chance to cash in on a career renaissance.
The Raiders need him happy and productive protecting Carr's blind side and opening holes for Marshawn Lynch. Giving a little more would make that happen, and might be the best course of action to end the issue quickly.
"He just wants the respect for what he's done on the field," McGinest said. "Stop looking at his age, look at his production and what he's done. If he's in the Top 10 then he'll comfortable with that."