Updates from Thursday, March 20
ESPN's Adam Caplan provides additional insight into Donald Penn's contract with the Raiders:
A little less than a week after ostensive left tackle signing Rodger Saffold's failed physical left the Oakland Raiders again scrambling for offensive line help, the team has come to an agreement with Donald Penn.
Terms of the agreement are yet to be confirmed, and the Raiders have yet to announce the signing. NFL Network's Albert Breer was the first to report the two sides had finalized negotiations:
Breer later reported the financial details of the contract:
Penn, who turns 31 in April, spent each of his first eight professional seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa released Penn last week after signing former Bengals tackle Anthony Collins, a move expected because of Penn's onerous cap figure. An undrafted free agent in 2006, Penn made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and has anchored the Bucs' left side since his arrival.
While never the most consistently effective tackle in the league, Penn has never missed a game since joining the roster full time in 2007. He has made 108 straight starts, and that kind of durability and experience will be embraced in Oakland.
Even if Penn wasn't the Raiders' first choice, this signing became from a palpable sense of desperation to lock up the offensive line. Oakland allowed 26-year-old offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to walk without much incident to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, seemingly because management knew Saffold was on the way.
Saffold signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract on the first official day of free agency. The move was panned by most pundits, who were confused why general manager Reggie McKenzie would allow Veldheer, arguably a better player, to leave to sign Saffold—a tackle whose best position may be guard. The Raiders ultimately backed out of their deal with Saffold because of a disagreement about his physical results, but the damage was done.
With Veldheer in Arizona, Saffold sent back to St. Louis and the tackle market drying up quickly, Penn's availability helps McKenzie save some face. Mike Jones of The Washington Post reported the Redskins hosted Penn over the weekend, but he left without signing a contract and allowed the Raiders to swoop in. He had visited Oakland before going to Washington.
Whether the Penn signing is ultimately enough remains to be seen. Penn struggled mightily as a pass-blocker in 2013, ranking 38th among tackles in Pro Football Focus' efficiency rating (subscription required). Though he rarely gets called for penalties, Penn gave up a career-high 13.5 sacks in 2013—4.5 more than any other season, per The Washington Post.
Some of that certainly came because he was blocking for rookie Mike Glennon, who had a propensity for holding the ball too long. Still, the Raiders have yet to shore up their quarterback situation for 2014 and could be in just as dire straits. Terrelle Pryor has shown little ability to lead an NFL offense, and Matt McGloin projects as a career backup.
Oakland also lost out on two younger and higher-ceiling signings in the process. Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News was bullish on the signing, though, saying Penn fits better within the Raiders' free-agency mold:
Boasting nearly $60 million in cap space after clearing dead money from their books, the Raiders have been among the most active teams in free agency. They've signed wide receiver James Jones, cornerback Tarell Brown and linebacker LaMarr Woodley among other veterans to low-risk contracts.
Oakland has gone 4-12 in each of the last two seasons and faces an uphill battle to contend next season—regardless of any of its signings. The Denver Broncos have reloaded by signing the likes of DeMarcus Ware, the Chiefs remain a dangerous defensive club and San Diego's quick rebuild resulted in a playoff spot in 2014.
As the AFC West continues looking like one of the better divisions in football, the Raiders still lag behind. But at least they'll have someone to protect the quarterback, whoever that may be.
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