General manager Ted Thompson normally wouldn’t give a two-year extension to a 35-year-old player, but Donald Driver isn’t a typical 35-year-old player. Besides being one of the team’s emotional leaders on the field and one of its most respected voices in the locker room, the former Alcorn State star is still a very good football player. And that’s always the most important thing to consider when making this type of commitment to an older athlete. Driver is coming off a season in which he caught 70 passes for over 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. And while his numbers declined in November and December, it’s probably unfair to blame Father Time. With the running game picking up steam and emerging star Jermichael Finley becoming a much bigger part of the offense, there just weren’t as many opportunities for Driver.
It’s hard to find a downside to this move. Even if Driver unexpectedly hits the wall in 2010, the Packers would only be on the hook for two additional seasons. And while terms of the extension have yet to be released, the odds are that most of the guaranteed money will be paid out in 2010 – an uncapped year. So even if the worst-case scenario does happen, this deal isn’t going to cause any problems with the salary cap in the future – assuming, of course, that there is a salary cap in the future.
The only people in Wisconsin who probably aren’t thrilled by this news are Jordy Nelson and James Jones. That’s because Driver’s continued employment with the Packers will likely keep the former in a backup role for at least another two seasons and force the latter to flee via unrestricted free agency – perhaps as soon as next March. Coach Mike McCarthy spent the entire offseason heaping praise upon Nelson and Jones, and he wasn’t just blowing smoke. Both players are capable of starting for half the teams in the league, but amazingly, one of them will be the No. 4 wide receiver this season. Chaucer once wrote that “Patience is a high virtue.” Easy for him to say. He wasn’t a football player looking to make a name for himself in a sport that rewards big stats with big money.