March really is one of the toughest months to be a Packer fan isn’t it? This is the time of year where we sit back and watch while it often feels every other fan base celebrates some signing which improves their team. We are left to simply wait and wonder when it is the Packers’ turn.
It’s also this time of year where frustrations with Ted Thompson come to a boiling point. It’s fair to say that Thompson is conservative when it comes to free agency. Some will argue that Thompson is too conservative in free agency, passing up viable free agent candidates because of his bias towards players he has drafted. Ultimately this viewpoint often comes down to the question of "how is this team going to improve if it is not going to sign any new players?"
The answer stays the same each time….from within. The Packers are a draft and develop organization like many of the better run teams in the league. It’s not the only way to run a successful team, but it seems to be one of the better ways to ensure long term success in the NFL. There are three parts to this strategy: 1) draft well, 2) develop the players you have, and 3) be shrewd about who you keep to the long term. In theory if a team can do all three of these steps effectively then there is little need for free agency. If a team can’t do each of these three things then the system breaks down and they will b forced to spend money on the free agent market to compete. The Packers have done a good job of drafting and have become one of the best teams at developing talent. It seems like every year there is a player who makes a large jump in their game. Last year it was Brad Jones who stepped up and became one of the better LB’s in the league after spending his first few years in obscurity. M.D. Jennings went from special teams player to being a solid option as a starting safety. Sam Shields improved his cover abilities and became a much better tackler as well. Time and time again the Packers mold the players they have into the contributors they need.
This offseason is no different. The Packers had a very good draft class last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team leaned on those young defenders more than they expected and the defense improved from its woefully bad 2011 form. Now is the time that those players should take a large step forward in their game and help the Packers fill in holes from last season. Similarly the offense should improve with Don Barclay and Andrew Datko getting more time to develop and learn how to be NFL players.
The Packers are getting better and will be better in 2013. The problem for us fans is that the ways the Packers are improving can’t be seen until May or August when OTAs and training camp pick up. Until then we are going to have to be patient and keep a level head. Rome wasn’t built n a day and the Packers have survived worse free agent hits than the ones we have taken this year.