Who will be better off now that the contracts are done?
Who will produce as the so-called No. 1 receiver for their respective teams?
The answer to both questions may surprise some.
Driver was given a well-deserved, four-year contract extension by the Packers last week, just after Walker got his wish of a new deal with a new team, the Broncos, in a draft weekend trade. Both players appear happy with their situation, but by the end of next year, Driver will be better off with the Packers than Walker with the Broncos.
Walker is undoubtedly a tremendous talent and will be missed by the Packers for that reason, not for the off-the-field public relations mess he created. He was well on his way to earning a contract worthy of one of the top receivers in the NFL before acceleration of his contract demands and an ACL injury clouded his future. In the end, Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded Walker, indicating it was the best situation for the team.
Whether or not Packers' fans agree with the trade, or the value the team received in return, are two separate topics of debate. His decision to extend Driver's deal, essentially choosing the seven-year wide receiver over Walker, should provide optimism. It was the right decision because Driver is better for the team and has proven to be more productive.
Driver has also been a staple of the Green Bay community and has made his intentions known that he wants to play his entire career with the Packers. With a solid family life and strong work ethic, he really is a model Packer, befitting of head coach Mike McCarthy's mission statement.
Besides that, Driver has stayed relatively injury-free over his career and has put up three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the process. Some have knocked Driver for not being a true No. 1 receiver, something that Walker measures out to be, but when Driver was the Packers only dependable and healthy passing target in 2005, he stepped up bigger than ever before. He had his best season, posting career highs in catches (86) and receiving yards (1,221), on a depleted offense that lacked punch at every other position. He seemed to thrive on the challenge and showed that he could do it alone.
Walker, on the other hand, has not shown that he can do it alone and has never been a No. 1 receiver over his four-year NFL career. He just has been perceived as a No. 1 based on his 2004 totals of 89 catches, 1,382 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Walker himself even said after the record-breaking 2004 season with Driver that he could not have achieved such impressive numbers without a talented teammate.
"If there wasn't a Driver," he said, "this offense wouldn't be functioning at all the positions…"
He later continued, "You're only as good as your counterpart. If another receiver on the other side of you gets 100 yards, then it's a compliment to the other receiver. You remember a couple of years ago when Eric Moulds and Peerless Price (then with the Bills) both went over 1,000 yards? Then they split them both up? What has Peerless Price done since then? You're only as good as your counterpart, but I think the difference between us two and them, if you put us in an offense where if we didn't have each other anymore, we can still make something happen. But it only makes us better with us both being here."
Both Driver and Walker said they were used interchangeably throughout the season at flanker and split end, thus the offensive scheme played a large role in fueling their productivity. They even had the green light to choose what position they wanted to lineup at after the play was called.
A year ago, the offense changed. With Walker out, Robert Ferguson struggling, a mistake-prone quarterback, and injuries at other skill positions, Driver stood alone. He was the true No. 1 and carried the load. That said it all.
Walker can only wait to find out this year if he can rise to the top of the wide receiver class now that he is in the spotlight on a different team with different receivers. His age, size, physical ability, and what he could become makes him a commodity. His past, though, makes him much more of an uncertainty.
The Packers know they have a sure thing in Driver. That, more than anything, is what makes him a better choice and a better receiver for the Packers.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.