Donald Penn has a point: Raiders LT has outplayed current contract

Donald Penn has a point: Raiders LT has outplayed current contract

Donald Penn ranks among the NFL’s best offensive tackles. He wants to get paid like one. That’s why the 34-year old didn’t report to Raiders training camp on Friday and won’t participate in Saturday’s opening practice.

He wants to rework his contract before returning to the field, looking for pay commiserate with recent production.

Penn had an excellent 2016 season, allowing just 28 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps. He gave up just one sack, but it was a big one. Penn slipped in Week 16 against Indianapolis, which set up the hit that ended Derek Carr’s season.

That doesn’t ruin a solid season where Penn ranked No. 6 among all offensive tackles in pass blocking efficiency. He was awesome in the run game as well, with large totals rushing behind him in a Pro Bowl campaign.

It’s hard to argue Penn’s claim that he’s a Top 10 left tackle. His paycheck doesn’t reflect that. Penn signed a two-year deal in the 2016 offseason worth up to $11.9 million. He’s scheduled to earn a $5.8 million base salary in 2017 and $7.1 million in total cash. That ranks 20th among offensive tackles. Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn ranks 10th in total 2017 cash at $11 million.

The Raiders can afford to increase Penn’s rate. They should have $14.825 million in salary cap space after releasing Austin Howard and Taiwan Jones.

Just because they have money doesn’t mean they’ll spend it on Penn. They could play hardball and fine him up to $40,000 per day for missing camp. They can ignore renegotiation requests and demand Penn play out his current contract. There’s no current indication how the front office will react to the fact Penn wants a raise.

Withholding services is his protest. He has a solid case and some leverage, considering the Raiders don’t have another option at left tackle and a $25 million quarterback in Carr.

Penn hasn’t explained his decision publicly, but spoke with NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest about the situation.

“He’s looking at it like, ‘well I don’t make anywhere near some of the top tackles in the league, I’m durable, I’ve only missed one game in 11 years, I’ve played against the best pass rushers, I protect the guy that you just gave $110 million to (QB Derek Carr),’” McGinest said Friday on air. “I can go on and on. He just wants to be appreciated. He feels like the extension he got a couple of years ago, the $11.9 million for two years, was pretty much a bargain. He figured in good faith that they (the Raiders) would come back and redo his deal because they understand what he’s worth to that team and what he does for that team.”

McGinest also said Penn isn’t frustrated with big dollars doled out to other Raiders offensive lineman. Kelechi Osmele ($58.5 million) and Rodney Hudson ($44.5 million) got paid in recent offseason, and Gabe Jackson signed a $56 million extension last month.

Penn is older and unsure how much longer he wants to play, so any bump would come in the short term. An extension might be the last of Penn’s career, the last chance to cash in on a career renaissance.

The Raiders need him happy and productive protecting Carr’s blind side and opening holes for Marshawn Lynch. Giving a little more would make that happen, and might be the best course of action to end the issue quickly.

“He just wants the respect for what he’s done on the field,” McGinest said. “Stop looking at his age, look at his production and what he’s done. If he’s in the Top 10 then he’ll comfortable with that.”

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice


Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”