Donald Driver: Is It Time for the Green Bay Packers' WR To Move On?

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IJanuary 20, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Wide receiver Donald Driver #80 of the Green Bay Packers stands on the field after being defeated by the Arizona Cardinals 45-51 in the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

He's 34 years old, going on 35 in a couple of weeks, and he's due $4 million next season (plus $3 million as a roster bonus).

Not the numbers you want to hear when you're thinking of a rising team's No. 2 receiver.

Donald Driver has recently said that he'd like to keep playing in the NFL until he's at least 40.

While that's a fine goal, it's growing less and less likely that he will be able to retire as a Packer, if he does in fact continue aiming for this goal.

And what a lofty goal it is.

Only 51 players in NFL history have played to (or past) 40 years of age, and only one has been a wide receiver: Jerry Rice.

That's some interesting company Driver is fancying himself keeping.

But forget about the age factor. For right now, at least, that's not an issue. Driver has still played at a fairly high level for the majority of his past six seasons (all with 1,000+ receiving yards), and has great chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

You can even ignore the money argument for the time being. Obviously, with any player that is getting older, the money can (and will) factor into the equation. But let's not attempt to dictate things that are out of our control, and out of our realm of understanding.

When it comes to money, only two things can happen: Either Green Bay views Driver as a player who is still playing at a high level and can continue doing so, or Driver is overestimating his value, and will be forced to take a pay cut.

Regardless of the perspective, Driver could, and very well may, be shown the door if his need for a fat wallet gets in the way of what he's got going on in Green Bay.

But there's a few more reasons why this story won't have a happy ending:

He's Already Regressing

He had some mighty fine seasons when Brett Favre was around, putting up three consecutive 1,200+ yard seasons, while catching 80+ balls in four straight campaigns.

But ever since Aaron Rodgers took over, for whatever reason, Driver hasn't caught more than 74 passes, and he hasn't cracked 1,100 receiving yards.

However, the switch from Favre to Rodgers impacting Driver's numbers doesn't necessarily prove anything. His dropping off late in the season, however, might.

In his final 11 games this season, Driver topped 76 yards receiving just twice, while topping 70+ just once in his final six (including playoffs). And out of those six outings, three went for 43 yards or less.

Whether it's Driver actually slowing down, struggling to get open, or just not being relied upon, something isn't quite right.

True, it's only starting to happen now, and it's just one small late-season fade, but the question is, is it a fluke, or is it a start of a trend?

That's the question many GM's are faced with when deciding whether or not to hold on to aging veterans: Is this how they're playing right now, or is this how they will continue to play?

The Youth Movement

There's nothing wrong with Driver wanting to play until he's an old man. There's nothing wrong with him having his sights set on James Lofton's Packers' receiving record (which he needs just 507 yards to break).

But at what cost?

If Driver does begin to slow down, and Green Bay is still paying him big money (or even keeping him as the starter), are they hurting themselves in doing so?

And just as important, are they hurting the development of their two young, talented receivers?

James Jones and Jordy Nelson, two young receivers with good speed, excellent hands, and good playmaking ability, are simply wasting away as third and fourth options, while Driver keeps chasing records.

Jones has found ways to still be a factor as the main slot receiver, as he caught 32 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns in his third season.

But considering he had better numbers as a rookie back in 2007, it's arguable that there is talent worth tapping into, that won't be realized until Driver is gone.

Nelson offers the same type of potential. He showed sound fundamentals and the ability to make catches in traffic in his rookie season, when he caught 33 passes for 366 yards and two scores.

However, a knee injury and a reduced role brought his reception total down to 22 this year, although his big-play ability was still shown by his solid 14.5 yards per catch, as well as four of his 22 catches being for 24+ yards, including a 51-yard score against Arizona in Week 17.

The argument isn't that either Jones or Nelson are right now better than Driver, but more than they are young, talented receivers, with arguably more potential than Driver ever had.

If They Traded Brett Favre...

The main reason this story won't have a happy ending—why Donald Driver is destined to finish his career elsewhere—is because if Brett Favre can be sent packing, so too, can Donald Driver.

The situation is entirely different. Driver isn't waffling, isn't demanding a trade, and hasn't even begun to think about retirement (which is actually part of the problem).

But he's there, and whether you're willing to admit it or not, he, like Favre, is in the way.

If Driver truly wants to play until he's 40, or even 37, that means the Packers would have to sit down with him and discuss his future.

Does he keep the same role? Does the contract change?

As beloved as a player as Driver is, all of these reasons may be enough to finally have him sent packing (pun intended) by his trusted front office.

Because it's not that Driver isn't good or unworthy of the money. It's just that it's only a matter of time before he won't be.

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