The Oakland Raiders made a bold move by asking Donald Penn to take a pay cut. Fortunately for Jon Gruden and company, a compromise has been reached.
Derek Carr can be an excellent NFL quarterback when he’s comfortable in the pocket. In order to protect him, the Raiders need Donald Penn to be a healthy and productive offensive tackle. Fortunately for Jon Gruden, the organization’s decision to ask him to take a pay cut didn’t blow up in their faces.
Instead, Penn and the Raiders have reached a compromise. Reports emanating from California claim the veteran tackle will restructure his contract this offseason. That will require to accept a lower salary for the 2018 season. In exchange, he will receive two additional years of guaranteed money on the end of his current deal.
Presuming Penn didn’t give up too much guaranteed money, this is a pretty fair deal for both sides. A total cap hit in excess of $8 million is a little rich for the player Penn is at the moment. He’s still an adequate offensive lineman, but he’s nowhere near a top-shelf starter.
That doesn’t mean he can’t really help the Raiders offense this season. Without him on the line, Gruden would be forced to rely on rookie Kolton Miller at the left tackle position. The team has high hopes for its first-round pick, but he doesn’t have the physical strength to make an instant impact as a pass protector. Miller is going to need at least one season of NFL strength training to be ready to hold down a starting spot on the line.
Keeping Penn in the mix will give Miller time to develop at a natural pace. More importantly, it will give Carr a chance of staying upright more often this season. He’s arguably the NFL quarterback most influenced by pressure in the pocket. When he has time and space to throw, he spins as good a ball as anyone. When he’s forced to get off schedule due to a fierce pass rush, he fires foolish balls into coverage. That has a predictably negative impact on the Raiders’ ability to move the football.
Reaching a compromise with Penn may not seem like a massive decision for neutral NFL observers, but Raiders fans should celebrate the move. It gives Gruden and company a legitimate chance to get a productive season out of their quarterback in 2018.