Donald Penn holdout: How worried should the Raiders be?

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Donald Penn
SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Donald Penn /

Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn still hasn’t reported to camp. He clearly wants a new contract. Should the Oakland Raiders start to sweat over his absence?

We are over a week into Oakland Raiders training camp for the upcoming 2017 NFL season. While many members of the Silver and Black are getting better at their craft in Napa Valley, there is one notable absence from camp: Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn.

Penn has expressed displeasure of his current offer with the Raiders. He is in the second year of his two-year deal he signed with the Raiders in 2016 worth $11.9 million. Penn stands to make $5.8 million in base salary in 2017 in his contract year. He will be 34 years of age in his 11th year in the NFL.

Since Penn made his second trip to the Pro Bowl in his career, he feels that he should be paid a Pro Bowl level salary, essentially top-10 in the league annually. Penn certainly has a strong reason to holdout. He only allowed one sack last year and hasn’t miss a regular season game in his career out of Utah State.

However, a top-10 salary for a starting tackle in terms of pure cash would have the Raiders out $11 million this fall, the amount that Cordy Glenn of the Buffalo Bills makes. Penn is 23rd in total pay for 2017 at $6.85 million. The Raiders would want to pay Penn top-dollar to keep him around, but only have $13,529,512 in overall cap space. You can understand Penn’s frustrations, but also the financial constraints Oakland is up against.

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So should we be worried about Penn’s extended absence from camp? No, not really at this time. Maybe when we get into the third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 26 should Raider Nation start to sweat a little.

It’s not like Penn is at home chilling on a couch. The NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports that Penn has been working out with a pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers. He spent time with Jackie Slater in Los Angeles and is now going to work with Orlando Pace in St. Louis. In essence, Penn is holding up his end of the bargain by staying in football shape.

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While Penn continues to hold out, look for youngsters like David Sharpe and Vadal Alexander to get some extra reps, as well as veteran Marshall Newhouse. It’s not like Oakland has it figured out at right tackle anyway.

Since Derek Carr will be rocking a red jersey in practice, he’s not going to get hit and it won’t matter. Frankly, the Oakland brass should play Carr next to nothing, if at all, in the four preseason games. If he can’t play at any point this fall, his backup is EJ Manuel.

This holdout can go on for a few more weeks and it won’t be the end of the world. However if this extends into any point of the regular season, somebody messed up.

Oakland has time to cut a few players to open up enough salary to pay Penn close to what he’s worth on a new deal. It’s not like the youngsters coming into the NFL out of Air Raid offenses are ready to play in any capacity. Their learning curve is tremendously steep.

As long as Penn continues to put in the work on his own, this shouldn’t be as glaring of an issue as it would be for other players. Yes, Todd Downing is the new offensive coordinator, but it’s not like he hasn’t been in the Raiders’ building before. He was Carr’s quarterbacks coach, so the transition is more likely to be seamless than not.

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Hearing that Peen is working out with guys like Slater and Pace should lessen the worry many Raiders have about his holdout. This thing will inevitably sort itself out. However if Penn doesn’t get close to putting pen to paper by September 1, then we can start to get a little panicky.