There seems to be plenty of speculation that wide receiver Donald Driver will not be a member of the Green Bay Packers in 2012. Not only do I believe this to be untrue but I think he will have an impact in several games this upcoming season.
Several media outlets have been gathering information that “leads” to Driver being cut by Green Bay similar to what happened with veterans Chad Clifton and Nick Collins. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy both dodged questions at the NFL Draft about Driver being released by the team.
As of now, Driver is set to make $2.6 million this season with the possibility of making an additional $3 million in miscellaneous bonuses, including a $1.5 million roster bonus on the first day of training camp. If the Packers keep Driver they would be taking a $5.6 million salary cap hit. Driver has firmly stated he is willing to take a salary cut in order to remain on the roster.
The average fan would think leaving money on the table should be good enough to keep Driver, but unfortunately there are other factors to be considered. The Packers have two talented wide receivers currently on the practice squad that were signed as undrafted free agents last July. Tori Gurley and Diondre Bell have both shown the ability to play at a high-level while also making the case they deserve a roster spot at minimum cost.
Green Bay does not want to lose out on a possible Pro-Bowl wide receiver just because they were unable to part ways with a 13-year veteran. I understand it is hard to believe Gurley or Bell has the capability to be a Pro Bowl wide receiver but look at Victor Cruz. He was an undrafted free agent two years ago and now he is one of the game’s top wide outs. Not to mention, the Packers are famous for turning undrafted players into talented difference makers so there really is no argument.
I believe the Packers can restructure Driver’s contract and keep him for at least one more season. He may have seen a minimum amount of targets last year but he made the most of what he was given.
Against the New York Giants on December 4 last season Driver was a huge difference maker as he hauled in four receptions for 34 yards and two critical touchdowns. One week later he caught four passes for 75 yards against the Oakland Raiders. Granted, the Raiders were not the best team in the league but at that moment they were heavy favorites to win the AFC West. When Matt Flynn started in place of Aaron Rodgers against the Detroit Lions on New Year’s Day, Driver aided the backup quarterback by grabbing two receptions for 52 yards and a crucial touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He was also huge in Green Bay’s only playoff appearance as he caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Releasing Driver would be a colossal mistake by the Packers management. Not only does he play an important role in the locker room and serve as a valuable member of the community, but he is an essential piece to the puzzle to bring another Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and makes vital catches just when the game seems to be over.