Speaking a day after his team had lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver wasn’t having any of the speculation that he may be retiring after 13 NFL seasons.
And without actually saying it, Driver made it seem clear that continuing his career in another city had become a viable option.
“If the Packers don’t want me, I’ve got to go somewhere else and play,” Driver said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m not ready to hang the cleats up.”
That sound-byte from Driver probably caught Packers GM Ted Thompson a little off guard. A fair number of observers had envisioned 2011 being the 37-year-old’s final season.
The plot added another twist last Friday.
At a breakfast banquet in Milwaukee, Driver said that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers in 2012, a statement that seemed to contradict his earlier feelings on wanting to play elsewhere if the Packers weren’t willing to keep him.
Driver is scheduled to make $2.6 million in base salary in 2012, plus a $2.2 million roster bonus due in March and another $200,000 workout bonus. Altogether, Driver’s cap number stands at $5 million. One of the main driving points for the potential release of Driver has been his cap number, and there’s likely no scenario in which he plays for the Packers next season at that price. Restructuring that $5 million number would seemingly make it easier to keep him on the roster.
However, Thompson is now in a tough spot. Every coin has two sides, and that premise applies here.
On one side, Driver is a respected team leader who worked his way up from the poverty-striken streets of Houston to the sandy beaches of four NFL Pro Bowls. Losing him would be an unquestioned blow to the Packers’ well-established locker room and the state of Wisconsin, where Driver has committed countless hours to improving the Green Bay community and state as a whole. Driver also proved there is still something left in the tank, catching six touchdowns during the regular season and being arguably the Packers’ most productive receiver in the playoff loss to the Giants.