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McCarthy Appears Ready to Bring Driver and Clifton Back

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McCarthy Appears Ready to Bring Driver and Clifton Back

The demise of a couple veterans on the Green Bay Packers roster has potentially been exaggerated, greatly.

According to the comments made by head coach Mike McCarthy from the NFL owners meetings Wednesday, the Packers don't have any current plans to cut receiver Donald Driver or tackle Chad Clifton.

“Donald’s still on our roster,” McCarthy said when asked about his potential return in 2012, via ESPN Milwaukee's Jason Wilde. “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.”

Clifton's status wasn't as clear, but McCarthy essentially said that the long-time left tackle will have a roster spot if he's healthy.

“There’s definitely a possibility,” McCarthy said. “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.”

“It’s a medical decision. That’s what it will come down to.”

The two veterans have been seen as potential roster cuts, partly due to their advanced age but also in consideration of the money they'll be making as borderline players in 2012.

Driver, 37, is entering the last year of a three-year, $17.2 million deal he signed in August of 2010. He's scheduled to make $2.6 million in base salary next season, plus a $1.5 million roster bonus and $200,000 workout bonus that will come due late this summer.

Driver continues to lose ground in the Packers receiving corps, and he finished 2011 with just 37 receptions for 445 yards and six touchdowns, his lowest totals since the 2001 season. Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are the clear-cut starters at receiver, with James Jones and Randall Cobb more than capable of handling bigger roles next season. Practice squad receivers Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel will also be competing for a roster spot in 2012, and it's possible the Packers could lose both if Driver is retained and the Packers decide on keeping just five receivers on their 53-man roster.

McCarthy said it's not likely to be that simple.

“We don’t just try to get four receivers or five receivers and stop there. You want to get as many as you can,” McCarthy said.

The Packers could negotiate a contract restructuring for Driver that would minimize the risk of having the veteran compete for a spot throughout training camp.

For the Packers' veteran left tackle, the age and money factors are very similar.

Clifton, who turns 36 in June, is coming off an injury-plagued season in which hamstring and back injuries allowed him to start just six games. He's also due a lot of money next season, with a $5.25 million base salary in 2012 plus over $200,000 in roster bonuses that also come due late in the summer.

Clifton underwent another surgery after the season to help clean up some lower back problems, which may give him a chance to stick around another season. At the very least, the Packers can now wait as long as they need to this offseason before a final decision is made—giving Clifton plenty of time to get himself healthy.

The availability of Derek Sherrod, the 2011 first-round pick who fractured his fibula and tibia during a game with the Kansas City Chiefs late last season, will be something the Packers have to consider regarding Clifton's roster status, along with the progression of third-year player Marshall Newhouse and the potential free-agent signing of Demetrius Bell, who is scheduled to visit Green Bay.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

Clifton, fine. OT depth is always good. But, I'm sorry, I love Driver but his time is done. Too many young guys ready to go.

pkrNboro's picture

Pretty much a given that if we sign Bell, Clifton is gone.

Maybe Bell's visit will prompt Clifton to renegotiate his contract -- that seems like a lot of money for someone with some injury problems.

Had he played all games last year, he earned his money -- but IMO that's too much to pay someone for 5 (or however many) games

Evan's picture

I'd be happy if that were the case, though I'm not entirely sure it is. How many OT does a team usually carry. 4? 5?

That said, I'd take Bell over Clifton. Neither can be counted on for 16+ games, but in a reserve role Bell will be cheaper and at only 27 has more upside.

Bearmeat's picture

NOOOOOO!

TT/MM: We all love them both, but their time is over. Bring in the young/cheaper/more upside guys. We've got solid WR starters already. LT is iffy, but IMO Newhouse/Sherrod will be just fine going forward.

Chris's picture

I love DD to death for his past, but he should retire on his own and make it easy on the Packers. The Packers have 4 WR who are better than him, and if they want to develop new talents they need playing time. Plus you cannot keep a 5th WR who does not play special teams.
On Clifton: Even if he is healthy at start of the season he is only good for 6-10 games. Do you pay him that much money for the risk of him breaking down again midway through the season?

Corwin's picture

It's not often, but DD is part of the "hands team" on onside kickoffs/returns and has made a lot of the catches. Not sure if that counts or not.

snackpack's picture

I'm not ready to let Driver go yet. He was the only one who could actually catch the ball in the last playoff game. I think his presence and influence alone are reasons enough to keep him.

Clifton should probably be let go, just for health/durability issues.

Mojo's picture

I think the Pack would be willing to bring both back, but only if they significantly reduce their contracts. So the Pack should get a large amount of cap relief without having to actually cut either player.

I'm guessing bringing back Cliffy would be done cheaper than signing Bell. I think developing Newhouse and Sherrod (possibly at RT) is the better way to go in the long-run with Cliffy providing back-up at LT.

Driver is a tougher decision. They could cut a TE and keep six receivers. However, that would mean less time for Cobb or Gurley along with the possibility of losing Borel. I think Quarless will end up on the PUP and maybe not play the entire year or they could cut D.J. Williams. Either way that would create room. This is a very difficult personnel decision for Packers brass as well as fans regardless of what side of the fence you sit on.

aussiepacker's picture

Bit early to give up on DJ Williams yet isn't it?

Evan's picture

Everything you said about DD makes it a super easy decision. You don't cut a 2nd year TE with promise or hinder the development of 3 promising young WRs just to keep a 37-year-old WR on the roster for 1 more year.

Mojo's picture

Could have sworn I wrote this was a tough decision. And from what I've read, it seems you are much higher on DJ Williams than the Packer brass is.

Evan's picture

You did say tough decision. And I disagreed, saying it was a very easy decision.

Rich Beckman's picture

Although I am certain there is plenty of communication between McCarthy and Thompson, isn't McCarthy always going to say the guy in on the roster and that's our plan until the day Thompson does something different?

PackersRS's picture

Good point.

PackersRS's picture

I can't believe the majority of Packers fans are borderline upset with the Packers keeping both DD and Clifton.

I'm with that line of though, don't get me wrong, it's just surprising. Expected a more sentimental approach from people that are closer to the Packers than I am.

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