The Raiders and Donald Penn were both always in each other’s plans — just on different pathways.
Those paths finally merged and led to Penn agreeing to a deal to remain in Oakland. The deal was made late Tuesday night and formally announced by the team on Thursday.
The return of the team’s starting left tackle, reportedly on a two-year, $14 million deal, stabilizes an offensive line that added the top available free agent in Kelechi Osemele and now enters the discussion among the league’s top units.
“We’ve got things rolling now,” Penn said Thursday on a conference call. “We’re on the up and up. I’m glad I’m going to be a part of it. We’re building something real nice right now and everything’s going the right way now and it feels good. I can’t wait to get back to work.”
In bringing back Penn, who started all 32 games the past two seasons at left tackle, the Raiders are able to keep Osemele at guard, his premiere position.
“When we see him on tape, we see him as an elite guard,” Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice said Thursday at Stanford’s pro day. “I don’t see that same thing at left tackle. We had to be very thankful when we got Donald back.”
Osemele is expected to play left guard, with Gabe Jackson shifting over to right guard. Austin Howard and Menelik Watson, who is rehabbing after missing all year with a ruptured Achilles, will battle at right tackle.
“I think we’re all pleased in the building,” Tice said. “We’ve added some talent. Now we just don’t want to screw it up.”
Penn long-maintained that he wanted to remain with the Raiders, his childhood team that he saw a rising franchise ready to be a contender.
It came down to the Raiders having a price they were willing to pay against Penn wanting a bump after making what he perceived to be a discounted salary the past two years.
Penn scheduled a visit this week with the New York Giants and said he had his bags packed and was prepared to fly to New York on a 7:30 a.m. flight Wednesday morning before he and the Raiders came to terms.
“I was going,” Penn said. “I felt like 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 do that.”
Penn said he’s excited to work with Osemele and thinks the addition of the 6-foot-5, 330-pound bruiser can help improve Oakland’s run game. The Raiders were 28th in the league in rushing last year and tied for 21st at 3.9 yards per carry.
“I think he’ll help us with the consistency of our running game and open a lot of things up. We won’t have to be so one-dimensional,” Penn said. “The run game was good last year but the thing about it was we weren’t consistent. He’s a great run blocker. I think he’s going to help bring some consistency to the run game and that’s what we need.”
Tice raved about Osemele’s ability to finish off his blocks.
“ 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 that’s going to set a tone for us. I think he’ll bring that to the table. Plus, he can recover. He’s athletic, he plays on his feet, he’s not on the ground. There’s a lot to like and he’s smart.”
Penn expects the offensive line to the emotional leaders for a Raiders team that will enter next season with high playoff expectations.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the air and we are going to want to be the focal point of the offense as leaders and the team as leaders,” Penn said.
Penn wasn’t shy while he was unsigned about admitted the emotional nature of free agency was a struggle for him. That’s something he’s excited to be past now.
“It was tough, but you know what, I’m very blessed and I’m happy it’s all over and said and done,” Penn said, “and I’m ready to look forward to winning. “
* The Cowboys were reported to have a visit scheduled for Raiders defensive end Benson Mayowa. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Raiders have the right to match any offer, but he was given an original round tender and so Oakland wouldn’t receive compensation if he left since he was undrafted.
Mayowa played in 12 games last season, missing the first four with a knee injury, and 28 games over the past two years. He has two career sacks but came on as an emerging player late in the season for the Raiders.