Donald Penn and the Oakland Raiders made it official today, with the big OT signing a two-year deal worth $9.6 million — $4.2 of that is guaranteed money. The move seems to help shore up the glaring problems the Raiders had with their offensive line last season as well as bring some veteran leadership to a squad that most definitely needs it. Penn’s signing seems to be another smart move by Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie, who has rebounded exceedingly well from a terrible start to the free agency period. The addition of Penn fills a big hole left by the departed Jared Veldheer and is a cost-effective deal that isn’t going to hamstring the team in the future. And as an added bonus, Penn has a surplus of motivation after feeling like he got a raw deal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In an interview conducted shortly after his signing, Penn spoke about his situation in Tampa Bay:
“I had a chip on my shoulder from when the season ended this past season, because I feel like I was coming off one of my worst seasons of my career. They just added more fuel to the fire, the Bucs releasing me. I do have a big chip on my shoulder, and I am ready to get back at it. I wish the season started in a month.”
Penn undoubtedly had a very rough 2013 campaign. According to Pro Football Focus, Penn allowed 12 sacks — second only to New York Giants tackle Will Beatty — to go with 28 QB hurries and six QB hits. Many in the Buccaneers organization, as well as their fanbase, believe that Penn is on the decline and 2013, rather than being an anomaly, is a sign of things to come. It’s that belief that led to the Bucs ultimately signing Anthony Collins and releasing the veteran lineman.
But if we’re being honest here, 2013 was a season of turmoil in Tampa Bay, and very few people in a Bucs uniform played exceedingly well. And as these things happen, the turmoil within the organization impacted the play on the field.
With McKenzie addressing many areas of need through free agency, one of the lingering questions remaining is who will be under center for the Silver and Black? Though recent reports have the team talking trade with the Houston Texans to acquire veteran passer Matt Schaub, free agent QB Josh Freeman has been linked to the Raiders for quite a while now. On one hand, it would make sense. The team is looking for a veteran presence, which Freeman undoubtedly is, and he has some strong connections within the organization. Penn protected his blindside, and his former OC Greg Olson, under whom Freeman had some outstanding years with in Tampa Bay, are both in Oakland now. Of Freeman, Penn said:
“I think he would fit in well in Oakland. He had some his best seasons too under Greg Olson and his offense. If Josh would come, I would love to block for him again or whoever I gotta block for. I would love to welcome Josh if it does happen.”
Does Penn’s signing along with Olson’s presence mean that Freeman might still wind up in Silver and Black? It’s a possibility. Especially if the talks with Houston fall through. It’s an interesting proposition and one that could potentially benefit the club in a big way. But Penn — along with all of us writing about it — are just spit-balling at this point. The important thing is that the Raiders have signed Penn and filled a gaping hole on the left side of the offensive line. McKenzie’s rebuild of the organization is taking shape, and it’s really looking good.