Coming back next year?
Donald Driver and Chad Clifton are two of my all-time favorite Green Bay Packers players. They're both going to be in the Packers Hall of Fame someday, and I'm hoping they can find spots on next year's roster. However, both of them are past their primes, neither is likely to start next season, and both of them are owed a lot of money.
Unlike the spring's cap casualties around the NFL, Driver and Clifton have not been cut because the team currently has no reason to cut them, even if they already know that they can't pay their salaries for next year. Clifton and Driver both have roster and workout bonuses that do not come due until later in the summer, so there's no reason not to wait. If they retire or they're released or restructured before June 1, they don't count against next year's cap.
Yesterday, Mike McCarthy talked to a few journalists and implied that Driver and Clifton are still very much in the team's plans. He didn't even seem to leave a whole lot of grey area. Based on what McCarthy had to say yesterday, there's no reason to believe that both players won't show up to training camp.
Clifton underwent back surgery after the season ended and was basically written off as a cap casualty at the end of the year. Here's what McCarthy had to say about the veteran left tackle and his future with the team, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
"There's definitely a possibility. We haven't taken him off, so he's someone we'll continue to talk about and get the reports. He's down in Tennessee now, so we'll see how he recovers ... Chad, he's going to be on a pitch count. He can't go through a full training camp and it's been like that for some time. It's a medical decision. That's what it will come down to."
If Chad Clifton is medically okay and playing at the level he's expected to play at, he'll be on the team, right? That's my understanding from those quotes, and I don't think I'm reading into something that isn't there, because I haven't personally made up my mind about whether or not I want Clifton on the roster at his current price.
"Donald's still on our roster. I thought Donald, the second half of the season, he played very well. His role, as far as opportunities, was not as high as it's been in the past, but I thought Donald was very consistent down the stretch. I thought he played well in the playoff game."
The above-linked JSOnline article didn't have those quotes about Driver, but mentioned something we've heard grumblings about earlier: Driver's willing to take a pay cut to stay on the team.
With the signings of Jeff Saturday, Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir, the Packers are right up against the salary cap before they sign draft picks. They can wait until June to do anything with Clifton and Driver, but based on the team's current cap situation and the ages of both players, I can't say I expect to see them on the team next year on their current contracts.
McCarthy's quotes on Driver and what we know about Driver's contract situation all make sense. The Packers want Driver, Driver wants to stay, and he'll probably be on the team next year under a different contract. Clifton seems like a different story. Maybe the team is waiting to see how Derek Sherrod recovers from his dual leg break -- along with who falls to them in the draft -- to make a decision on Clifton. McCarthy seems to expect him in training camp, though, and it's tough to make sense of. As much as I love Clifton, there's something a bit unsettling about a team with cap issues and a lot of young lineman paying Clifton a $5.25 million base salary and $500,000 in bonuses.