Driver vs. Randle El is no contest

Randle El got bigger contract, but Driver a far better player

This off-season, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El was one of the high-profile players on the free-agent market, and the Washington Redskins inked the former Pittsburgh Steeler to a seven-year, $31 million deal, including $11.5 million up front. Many NFL "experts" called the signing huge for the Redskins, who needed to find a No. 2 receiver behind Santana Moss.

Recently, the Packers extended wide receiver Donald Driver two years, making his current contract worth four years and $17 million, with a $4 million bonus. Per year, Randle El's deal is worth more than Driver's — $4.43 million to $4.25 million — but statistically Randle El can't hold a candle to Driver, which makes me wonder why Randle El was such a high commodity in the off-season. Because he threw a TD pass in the Super Bowl?

Let's compare Driver and Randle El since 2002, Randle El's first season in the NFL. Randle El has never caught 50 passes in a season, eclipsed 610 yards or scored more than three TDs. Meanwhile, in the same period, Driver has never caught fewer than 52 passes, caught less than 620 yards of passes and three of the four years Driver caught at least five TD passes.

In his first three seasons, Randle El was a No. 3 receiver behind perennial Pro Bowler Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. Last year, getting a chance to show he's a viable No. 2 receiver after Burress left for the Giants, Randle El caught his fewest passes in a season (35) and scored one whole TD. Yet, the Redskins apparently mesmerized by the former Indiana quarterback's TD pass to Ward in the Super Bowl, overlooked his season. Hard not to when much didn't happen.

While Randle El was catching about two passes a game, Driver became the Packers' go-to guy after Javon Walker tore up his knee in the season opener. (At the time I was angry about that as I had Walker on my fantasy team, but after he showed his true colors this off-season, I smiled).

Anyway, Driver was No. 1 on Brett Favre's hit list and Driver responded in his new role, recording career highs in catches (86) and yards (1,221). The Packers did the right thing, rewarding Driver with the extension. What this tells us is in new-and-expanded roles, Randle El became less producutive as defenses focused on him more, while Driver's impact grew despite facing the oppsotion's No. 1 cornerback.

Furthermore, who was Driver's No. 2? The oft-injured Robert Ferguson. Randle El's partner was Ward. The Randle El apologist will note Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last season and threw 17 TD passes. Favre, in 16 games, passed for just 20 TDs, so Roethlisberger's numbers weren't so bad.

These numbers should tell us a few things: First, the Packers have a quality receiver in Driver. Is he a Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson or a Randy Moss? No, but his numbers don't lie. He's good. Second, the Packers spend their money wisely, not overspending like the Redskins have done in the past (remember the deals for Deion Sanders and Mark Brunell?). Third, making one play in the Super Bowl can erase any disappointment about an underachieving regular season, and then you can get grossly overpaid for it. Fourth, Randle El should get about half the money Driver gets, since his production is about half.

This column makes it sound like I have it in for Randle El. Not so. He's a good player, who can help a team win by putting him in different roles. But to potentially spend $31 million on a player I'm counting on to be a viable threat, I would rather have somebody I know who'll be worth every penny. Somebody who has proven his worth in the NFL. Somebody who has done it over 16 games. Any ideas who that guy is? Donald Driver.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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