Donald Driver’s comments yesterday that he is willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers is huge – for fans and the team.
From a fan’s standpoint, he has become the Green Bay Packers. His records stand by themselves, his story about being a seventh round draft pick and coming out of nowhere to be a team leader in statistics and emotion is what the Packers embody.
To kick Donald Driver to the street curb would be criminal and I think both Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson understand that. Clearly, Donald Driver also understands it and his comments illustrate it.
So, what does that mean for the team? Well, if you can bring back a team leader at a blue light discount rate and he’s willing to sacrifice and the display the effort to make the team one more time … what does that say to the rest of the players? When they see Driver out on the field busting his butt alongside those making more than he is, it should demonstrate to them that life isn’t about money. It’s about pride, determination and loyalty.
Some may argue bringing Driver back for another year doesn’t help the team. It most likely will force coaches to make a choice between the old veteran and younger players, but one must remember that this is a team loaded with talent. Do the Packers really need a bazillion tight ends? Probably not. Can they make a cut or two elsewhere to provide a spot on the team for Driver? Probably.
I understand this is the NFL and it’s about championships, it’s about what have you done for me today.
Take a look at Driver’s stats from last year. He caught 37 passes for 445 yards and six touchdowns. Pedestrian numbers, and statistics that pale in what Driver has produced in previous years.
But let’s compare him with these other receivers in the NFC : Michael Jenkins of the Minnesota Vikings, Titus Young of the Detroit Lions, and Earl Bennett of the Chicago Bears.
Driver and Young played in all 16 games last year, Jenkins and Bennett played in 11. Jenkins had 38 receptions for 466 yards; Bennett had 24 for 381; and Young, the most productive of them all, had 48 receptions for 607 yards.
Driver and Young had six touchdowns, Jenkins scored three times, and Bennett got to the end zone just once.
Bennett’s average salary over a four year contract is $4.5 million; Jenkins makes an average of $3 million; Young, the most productive and most underpaid, gets $1.1 million per year over four years.
Driver is scheduled to make $2.5 million in base salary with another $2.5 million in extras that brings his total salary for next year to $5 million.
Yes, he probably should take a pay cut, but at least he’s smart enough to understand that. Because he still wants to play and in his mind can still contribute, he deserves the shot. The least the Packers can do is allow him to come back and compete for a job.
So, the writing is on the wall for both the Packers organization and for Driver. The longtime Packers receiver’s comments yesterday were a big step forward in helping the Green Bay Packers become a better team in 2012.