The Driver Dilemma
Charles Woodson did his best, but there's no way he'll be able to overtake Donald Driver for the team lead in "most times answering an age related question" this season. He gave it a good shot, but he's just not on Driver's level...mostly because there weren't rumors about Woodson being cut due to his age all offseason.
So, Donald Driver. I've been hesitant to approach this topic because I think my opinion is going to be unpopular, but I think it merits discussion in part because it has one very significant historical precedent.
Think back to the spring of 2007. The Packers were coming off an 8-8 year and the team was looking to add talent on offense in hopes of gearing up for one last shot at a title with Brett Favre. As luck would have it, an all-time great playmaker was available: Randy Moss. He was coming off career lows in receptions (42), yards (553), and touchdowns (3), but was still considered to at least have some ability left. As the NFL Draft began, the Packers were rumored to be in the hunt for Moss, to my delight. I thought it'd be quite interesting to see Randy Moss and Brett Favre on the same field together. After the first day of the draft, I went to bed believing that the Packers were the frontrunners in the Randy Moss Sweepstakes, even hearing a report from Chris Mortensen on ESPN Radio that said the Packers and the Raiders had a deal in place that would bring Moss to Green Bay. Everything was good.
But it didn't happen. When I woke up, Moss was a New England Patriot, shipped there for the ludicrously low (in hindsight) cost of a fourth round pick. I couldn't believe it. Moss was there...and then he wasn't. When Ted Thompson said he was worried about "slowing the development of our young receivers," I was livid. Randy Moss could have been had for a fourth round pick! If he's available for that price, you always take Randy Moss.
Fast forward a few years and the situation is remarkably similar. An aging receiver coming off low marks in receptions and receiving yards is again on the table, only this time it's Donald Driver, a fan favorite who happens to be seven years older than Moss was when the Packers were looking his way. Instead of choosing to pass, though, Ted Thompson inexplicably offered Driver what amounts to a contract extension. Why? I'm not exactly sure.
I've always been a Donald Driver fan, but this seems like a significant departure from Ted Thompson's guiding philosophy. Can Driver still contribute? Yeah, probably about as much as you'd ever need a fourth or fifth string wide receiver to contribute. But I don't think that's the issue here. If Ted Thompson was concerned about slowing the development of young wide receivers when the Packers frankly didn't have a very good receiving corps, why isn't he concerned when the Packers have even fewer opportunities to go around for young receivers? By all accounts, the Packers have four extremely promising young wide receivers on their roster in Randall Cobb, Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel, and Shaky Smithson. By bringing Driver back, the Packers are essentially giving away young talent by eliminating at least one available position. That's never been Thompson's standard operating procedure and I struggle to see why he's budging on the issue now.
The question isn't whether or not Driver can contribute more than the young guys this season. The question is if Driver's around now, how will it affect the way those young receivers play two, three, and four years from now? We know for a fact that at least one of those four guys (three, really, since Cobb is a shoo-in) won't be on the Packers' roster this year since Driver is back. What we don't know is whose opportunities will be limited by his return. I'd hate to see the Packers miss out on multiple years with Gurley, Borel, or Smithson for one sentimental season with Donald Driver.