Though the Green Bay Packers retained the top two players on their offseason wish list -- wide receiver Randall Cobb and right tackle Bryan Bulaga -- the team saw veteran cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House leave for bigger contracts elsewhere. Some might assume that would irk head coach Mike McCarthy, but he insists that isn't the case.
While speaking with the media during this week's owners meetings in Phoenix, McCarthy explained that free agency isn't the cure all for the Packers' voids on defense.
"I don't agree with that mind-set," McCarthy told to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel regarding the belief that the team needs to sign free agents fill the holes on the roster. "I think the reasons why we were in a position in 2014 that we were in is because we stayed the course. We relied on young players a lot early in the season."
The young players McCarthy referred to include Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Corey Linsley. Each became a vital contributor at some point during the season because of the extended playing time they received early on. McCarthy sees them developing further this year.
"It paid off for us later in the season. I think when we look at the body of work of the rookies, you have to feel good about particularly the five guys and what they accomplished in their first year. You still have to keep growing from within."
That's the same approach the Packers will use when addressing their need at inside linebacker and cornerback. In both cases, the team has at least one starter in place (Sam Barrington and Sam Shields respectively). The other starter at each position could come via the upcoming draft, or perhaps from a younger player already on the roster. In particular, McCarthy has high hopes that Carl Bradford will contend for a major role in the defense in 2015.
"Carl needs to take a huge jump this year," McCarthy explained. "He's a guy I'm excited about, you know working closely with this upcoming offseason. He's definitely in the category of needing to make a jump form year one to year two."
Whether Bradford can step in as the other inside linebacker in the base defense remains to be seen, but Green Bay's coaching staff understands the need for improvement at that spot.
As for cornerback, the coach expressed optimism that Casey Hayward can successfully transition to the outside, a place he hasn't played much since his rookie year. The team also believes Demetri Goodson will improve in his second season. Both figure to compete for the starting job opposite Shields during training camp and the preseason.
In the end, McCarty believes whether the team can effectively replace their departed veterans will come down to coaching.
"We need to coach better. Find different ways to emphasize things that we need to do better. Every year, you come up with two or three things you really want to make sure that you put your practice time into it, and it has to show up on game days."