Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
NFL executives are only beginning to formulate their offseason plans at this time of year, and rarely do they give an honest preview even when those plans are finalized. But I tend to believe Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, who said in a series of interviews Tuesday that he doesn't expect to hit the free-agent market any harder than he has in recent years.
Here's what Thompson told Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"We're going to try to improve this team like we always do. People talk about free agency, draft. We'll use whatever avenues we can to try to improve this team. But again, I'm still going to preach the thing we've always preached: The best way to get better, the most consistent way to get better, is to improve from within. Some of our freshmen are going to be sophomores and some of our sophomores are going to be juniors. These guys are going to have to develop into better players. In order to be successful in the NFL long term, that's how you have to do it."
If you recall, Thompson signed one free agent last winter: linebacker Brandon Chillar, a part-time starter. The Packers have needs at several positions this winter, most notably in multiple spots along the defensive line, but overall Thompson believes the Packers are closer to success than their 6-10 record in 2008 indicates.
"Collectively, you could sense it in our locker room after our win the other day [against Detroit] and in the building, we feel like we could have been better," Thompson told Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "We all feel like we should have had more wins. So we'll work on it and see if we can get to the bottom of it and try to get better."
Continuing around the NFC North on a fine New Year's Eve day:
Minnesota plans to request at least a 24-hour extension on selling out Sunday's wild-card playoff game at the Metrodome, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell was inspired by Tiger Woods, his offseason neighbor in Orlando, to find ways to improve even while still kicking at a high level. Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press explains.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune expects the Bears to pursue a mid-level free-agent quarterback this offseason along the lines of a Chris Simms or J.P. Losman.
Here's a full transcript of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo's news conference Tuesday, courtesy of Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Here's how new Detroit president Tom Lewand responded when asked about the relationship of the team's finances and its coaching search: "The mandate we've been given is to find the right coach. It's finding the right person. It's not, at the end of the day, about dollars and cents." John Niyo of the Detroit News reports.
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on new Lions general manager Martin Mayhew: "... I'm trying to judge Mayhew objectively, and there's an understated intelligence about him that's intriguing. He made no silly proclamations Tuesday. He didn't try to explain away his connection to Millen, because he can't. He also made it clear, sternly and repeatedly, that he's different, that the Lions have a different plan they swear they're sticking to."