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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: