Slow and steady wins the race — it seems to be the mantra, if not the whole philosophy, of Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. After an absolutely disastrous start to free agency — a 48-hour period that saw many of the Silver and Black faithful screaming in agony and torment — McKenzie has bounced back very nicely, overhauling a defense that desperately needed it, and adding important pieces to a mess of an offensive puzzle. Despite the howls of outrage that emanated from those of us in the Raider Nation following the start of the free-agency period, McKenzie has remained calm, steady and the bigger picture of his plan is beginning to take shape very nicely.
Having let OT Jared Veldheer walk away as a free agent, and the debacle that was the Rodger Saffold signing (or voiding), many Raiders fans were left wondering what McKenzie was going to do with an offensive line who had their quarterbacks either running for their lives, or repeatedly picking themselves back up off the turf last season. Having given up 44 sacks, the Raiders’ offensive line was among the worst in the NFL in 2013. It was obviously an area the team desperately needed to upgrade. Having already signed Austin Howard away from the New York Jets, and then bringing former draft pick Kevin Boothe back from the New York Giants to add to veterans Khalif Barnes and Stefen Wisniewski, the offensive line was beginning to take shape. Today, McKenzie added another solid piece to the line by adding former Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Donald Penn.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer have reported that the Raiders and Penn have agreed to a contract that will bring the big left tackle to the Bay Area. Penn might be the replacement for Veldheer, a hulking wall who can protect his QB’s blindside the team thought they had in Saffold. According to Breer’s report, though nothing is “guaranteed” at this point position-wise, Penn will have the first shot as Oakland’s starting left tackle.
Penn spent the last seven years in the Buccaneers’ organization, but having signed Anthony Collins, and citing Penn’s slippage in play, the team deemed him expendable and made him a free agent after cutting him. The Raiders need some consistency and stability on the line, which is something that Penn looks able to offer. He has not missed a game in the last six seasons and has been a leader on the Buccaneers’ offensive line. There is no reason to believe he won’t bring the same thing to the table with the Raiders.
With a free-agent class that includes Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Tarrell Brown, Antonio Smith, James Jones, Kevin Boothe and now reportedly, Donald Penn, Reggie Mckenzie is assembling some very important pieces in this new era of Raiders football. He’s been slow — frustratingly so at times — and steady, and has made some incredibly savvy moves that should give Raider Nation a lot of hope as we look to the future of the organization. Obviously, he’s made some missteps along the way, but McKenzie has quietly gone about his business and pulled off some truly fantastic moves. Though it hasn’t been full of showy splashes, or had a lot of razzle dazzle to it, McKenzie has bounced back from an awful start to piece together a very solid free-agent class, one of the better ones in the NFL.
Raiders fans should breathe a bit easier knowing that the looming 2014 season doesn’t look nearly as bleak and dreary as it did for the first 48 hours of free agency. Slow and steady wins the race indeed.