INDIANAPOLIS -- Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole on Friday reported the Green Bay Packers are “likely” to release veteran left tackle Chad Clifton and restructure Donald Driver’s contract.
Not so fast, at least for the moment, on part of the story.
A source told Packer Report on Friday evening that the Packers have not gone to Driver’s agent to ask him to rework a contract that carries a 2012 cap figure of $5.0 million.
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Not that a more cap-friendly deal is out of the question. Speaking to WISN-TV at the Three Harbor Council Boy Scouts Leadership Breakfast in Milwaukee on Feb. 10, Driver said: “The organization knows what I’ve done on and off the field, and they want to keep me around as long as possible. If that means sitting down and taking pay cuts to stay around, then you take pay cuts to stay around. I’ve always said it’s not about the money for me anymore. What I’m pushing for is for my legacy to stay around in the state of Wisconsin and around the world forever. So, the money’s not a big issue.”
When push comes to shove, if the 37-year-old Driver truly would be open to a pay cut – and the size of the pay cut he’d accept – isn’t clear. It’s one thing to give a politically correct answer at a community event. It’s quite another to slash your pay by, say, 80 percent to $1 million, which would give the team an additional $4 million under the cap.
Moreover, while releasing one of the franchise’s all-time most popular players would be a public-relations nightmare in the short term, the Packers have no shortage of receivers. They gave raises to practice-squad players Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel to encourage them to stay in Green Bay rather than sign with the 53-man rosters of the Vikings and Buccaneers, respectively. Plus, the Packers used a second-round pick last year on Randall Cobb to essentially fill Driver’s role in the offense.
Driver, a seventh-round pick in 1999 who holds the team’s career records for receptions and yards, had a decent year with 37 catches for 445 yards and six touchdowns.
As for Clifton, Packer Report was unable to confirm or deny that he will be released, though his departure from the team that selected him with a second-round draft pick in 2000 would be anything but unexpected. Clifton missed 10 full games last season, first with a severe hamstring injury and then a back that he strained during rehab. Upon his return, he was shaky in part-time duty against Detroit and the Giants, though given the rust, his sketchy play was understandable.
His cap figure of $5.594 million for 2012 is the sixth-highest on the team, according to a source with access to the Packers’ contracts. All of it would be erased from the team’s salary cap. Clifton will turn 36 in June, and the Packers have to feel relatively secure at left tackle with Marshall Newhouse as the presumed starter were Clifton to be released. Other options are last year’s first-round pick Derek Sherrod, though he’s coming off a broken leg, a high draft pick or, if in a pinch, right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.