I'm glad others are more optimistic than I am.
But, compared to this time a year ago, I just don't see it.
Position by position, as I see the roster going into the free agency period:
WR -- surprisingly, no change. I thought Jennings loss would be bigger, but Bostick stepped up.
TE -- also a surprise. improvement.
RB -- clearly the major accomplishment of the year with Lacy. One draft pick I am really glad to have been really wrong about.
QB -- same. The one place where, IMO, an injury explanation holds. On the other hand, I and others have been pointing out for years that with the Packers OL, its a real risk to happen again. Because:
OT, OG, C -- no change. I thought Newhouse would finally step up, but was not to be; I was wrong there. OTOH, I fail to understand the great optimism re: Bahktiari. He showed me virtually nothing to warrant it. And I've never been as sold on Bulaga or Lang as other people. EDS showed as serviceable long term player, but overall I see no grounds for thinking this unit has any more going for it than it did a year ago. I thought it was (excluding Sitton) a mediocre/serviceable unit then, and I think it is a mediocre/serviceable unit now. Same possible unproven potential as before. Until it gets better, I expect to lose Rodgers for some games every year.
Backups: QB slightly better, RB slightly better prosects, TE wash, WR wash, OL no change.
Overall: better because of Lacy.
DT: Weaker. I've been a Pickett fan forever. But, alas, I think he declined last year. And as for Raji, well, it's past time. I don't know whether Daniels should be considered DT or DE at this point, but I've always put him at DT and so does the Packers roster list, so I'll put him there. And he was a real positive, one of very few on the defensive side last year. So Daniels a big up; Pickett a down and Raji a down, so I'd say weaker overall, since this is a position that needs rotation during games.
DE: No change. Boyd -- flashes suggesting cautious optimism warranted. Jones -- I didn't like the pick, and I'm still underwhelmed. The rest -- bleh.
OLB: No change. Didn't like the Perry pick, still don't. Matthews, injuries notwithstanding, still IMO is a stud. The rest -- same potential, different year.
ILB: Slight improvement, but still mediocre. Improvement: Lighter Hawk looked better; Lattimore definitely looked better. Jones -- don't know if he belongs here or at OLB; regardless, looked, if anything, more underwhelming.
CB: Same. Hyde this year's pleasant surprise after last year's pleasant surprise of Hayward. OTOH, Hayward was disappointing -- I didn't like the draft pick two years ago, last year I thought I was wrong about the pick, and now, well I don't know what to think of the guy anymore. (Since this "before free agency" assessment, I'm counting Shields as still there. If Shields is lost, this position takes a major hit.)
S: Worse. McMillian didn't even last the year and MD Jennings looked worse; a year ago, he still seemed, to me anyway, to offer some potential. Not as optimistic about Burnett either. Richardson -- more optimistic, because with the injury frankly I never expected anything from him before.
Depth? Only at CB and even there it could be better.
P Same. Masthay still a stud.
K Better. But I was never really that down on Crosby, despite last year.
PR/KR: Okay. I'm not as gungho on Hyde as some, but he's good enough for my taste. Blocking still leaves something to be desired IMO.
Punt/kick coverage: Jarrett Bush still a stud. Rest -- ho hum to mediocre.
A healthy Rodgers can carry this team into the playoffs. But even he isn't enough to carry it to the level of serious Super Bowl contender.
I've been harping on OL so long, I find it hard to get enthusiastic about this or that players "potential improvement/growth" or "return from injury" anymore. Much as I like Lacy and much as he is my kind of Jim Taylor/John Brockington-type back, that kind of back behind a mediocre line takes a even more horrible pounding. Taylor lasted longer, but he had an all-world OL; Brockington, well he had three great years and then fell off.
And, the defense to me is getting worse, not better.
If I thought Thompson might be more risk-taking in free agency rather than gambling the entire hand on draft-and-develop-potential, I might be optimistic. But I'll believe that is a possibility when I see it.
Sorry, but the Pickett and Woodson examples are no longer credible examples that Ted Thompson is interested in playing anything other than bargain-basement and third-tier free agency. Both are among my all time favorite Packers, but both were 8 frigging years ago. Two major free agent acquisitions in 9 years -- that is not, IMO, a serious commitment.
I'm sorry, but the "at least he's not Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones" doesn't make it for me. There's a helluva middle ground between those two and where Thompson operates in free agency -- where most of the other 27 teams operate. Saying "would you rather have Snyder?" as a affirmation of Ted Thompson's approach to the draft is almost as bad as saying "would you rather have Bush" as a justification for voting for Obama. I don't want either of those bastards for President and I don't want the Packers to choose between "virtually no major free agent action" and "moronic billionaire buy every big ticket player".
The Packers are closer to serious Super Bowl contention than I am to getting out of debt, but not a whole lot closer.
Hell, no, I'm not optimistic.