If guaranteed money in the NFL talks, the roster spot of Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver appears to be safe for 2012.
According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Driver's restructured deal calls for $1.2 million in guaranteed dollars —which Demovsky ties to a secure place on the Packers' 53-man roster ahead of the 2012 season.
According to a source with access to NFL Players Association contract information, Driver’s renegotiated contract, which was dated May 30, is worth $2.3 million. The base salary is $1.1 million, while the roster bonus is $1.2 million, the same as the guaranteed money. There are no additional bonuses or seasons added.
It’s unclear when the roster bonus was paid, but the fact that Driver is guaranteed $1.2 million almost certainly means there’s no chance the Packers would release him before the start of the season.
Driver, 37, was scheduled to make over $5 million in 2012 before the two sides agreed to a restructure. A $1.5 million roster bonus would have been paid to the veteran receiver on the first day of training camp, but the numbers suggest that Driver isn't losing much in terms of guaranteed money with his new deal.
It remains entirely possible that the $1.2 million in guaranteed money could be separated between a one-time bonus and 16 per-game roster bonuses. Either way, that sizable amount of guaranteed money means the Packers are counting on Driver being on the 53-man roster to start next season.
No team—and especially the fiscally responsible Packers—would risk throwing away that kind of money on a 37-year-old if it didn't expect that player to make the team and contribute over 16 games.
In 2011, Driver posted 10-year lows in catches (37) and receiving yards (445). He played the third most snaps of any receiver on the Packers roster with 563, but that was a big drop off from the 830 he participated on in 2010.
Given all the factors working against him, Driver's roster spot appeared to be in serious jeopardy early this offseason.
With second-year receiver Randall Cobb primed to take on a bigger role in 2012 and emerging practice squad players in Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, the Packers came into the spring well-stocked to take on the loss of the veteran receiver. One could argue that the team has 7-8 NFL-quality receivers on the roster currently.
GM Ted Thompson has also never been shy about cutting ties with veteran players, and his track record with letting go of older players is sound.
Even a restructured deal completed in late May didn't have to guarantee that Driver was back in 2012, but the guaranteed money suggests he'll finish out his career with the Packers next season.
Driver's one-year deal mirrors what the Packers did with Ryan Grant last summer. In exchange for slashing Grant's base salary, the Packers guaranteed the rest of his 2011 salary—ensuring that Grant would be in Green Bay last season. Driver's deal appears to be making the same kind of one-year commitment from the Packers side.
Barring some catastrophic injury this summer, expect Driver to be on the team's 53-man roster come September.
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