Donald Penn really was the Raiders’ second choice. He was their backup plan.
In the spring of 2014, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was seeking a left offensive tackle to solidify the offensive line with the exit of Jared Veldheer. When a deal for the Rams’ Rodger Saffold fell apart, McKenzie signed Penn, a free agent and former Tampa Bay Buc.
At the time, there were questions about Penn. He was 30 and had just been released.
Wrote Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, at the time: “Penn’s play slipped in recent years, but he still has the potential to fill a gaping hole on Oakland’s roster, while allowing the organization to move on from the Saffold misadventure.”
But after a very solid first season in Oakland, Penn now seems like a treasure. He’s protected Derek Carr’s blind side and been a leader on an offensive line in transition.
Now, as the Raiders head toward their second exhibition game Saturday night against the Vikings, Penn reportedly is in discussions on a contract extension. According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, McKenzie is interested in keeping Penn beyond 2015, the final year of the two-year deal he signed as a free agent in March of 2014.
“That would be great,” Penn told Tafur. “I love it here. I grew up a Raiders fan, and we’re getting closer to brining it back to the old, winning ways.”
Penn, a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder, started all 16 games at left tackle for the Raiders in 2014. He’ll lead a line that projects to have veteran Rodney Hudson at center, Gabe Jackson at left guard, J’Marcus Webb at right guard and Menelik Watson at right tackle, with veterans Khalif Barnes and Austin Howard also in the mix.
“I am proud that the guys put their trust in me,” Penn said this week. “I know that the offensive line, the young guys especially follow me and Khalif (Barnes’) lead. Everybody is on board.”