ALAMEDA — Donald Penn’s suitcase was packed and he was all set to take a cross-country flight to visit the New York Giants when the Oakland Raiders finally upped their contract offer.
That two-year, $14 million contract allowed the free agent to stay where he always wanted to be and gave the Raiders a final piece on an offensive line they hope will help lead them back to the playoffs this season.
“I was packed and ready to go. It wasn’t ‘how close.’ I was going,” Penn said Thursday. “I wanted to see what New York had to offer and what they were going to talk about and see what their plan was. Luckily, the Raiders didn’t give me a chance to go see that.”
The Raiders officially announced Penn’s signing on Thursday in a move that especially pleased quarterback Derek Carr and offensive line coach Mike Tice. Oakland started free agency by giving Kelechi Osemele a five-year deal worth $58.5 million.
The Raiders valued Osemele’s toughness and versatility. They knew he could replace Penn at left tackle if needed or remain at guard as part of dominant interior with center Rodney Hudson and guard Gabe Jackson.
While Penn was initially miffed when he saw the move, the Raiders never lost interest in him because they believed Osemele was best suited to guard.
“When you see him on tape, you see this elite guard on tape,” Tice said. “I don’t see that same thing at left tackle. We had to be very thankful when we got Donald back.”
Since arriving in Oakland in 2014 after being let go by Tampa Bay, Penn has revitalized his career and been one of the steadier left tackles in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Penn allowed two or fewer quarterback pressures in 13 of 16 games last season.
With Austin Howard back at right tackle, the Raiders go into the season with what looks like one of the NFL’s top offensive lines.
“I feel like the sky is the limit, but one thing we have to do, we can’t talk about it,” Penn said. “We have to go out there and put in the work and do it and show the world how we’re really about it. I think we have the guys where we can be one of the best O-lines in the league and lead this team.”
The Raiders’ line has been solid the past two years, especially in the pass game where they have allowed the sixth fewest sacks in the NFL. But during that span, they have the fewest rushing yards in the NFL and have averaged just 3.8 yards per carry.
That’s where they hope Osemele will really help boost the offense with his ability to flatten defenders and open holes in the running game.
“He’s as good a finisher as I’ve seen on tape in the league,” Tice said. “We need some of that. We need some attitude in our room. We need somebody who will set a tone for us. He’ll bring that to the table.”