Where's the improvement?

It is obvious that Thompson is building for future, not the present

As the Green Bay Packers enter the final week of draft preprations, there has to be concern floating around Packerland for one reason. After going 4-12 last year, what have the Packers done to improve their roster?

Signed defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. No other addition appears to be anything but an average player at best. Couple that with the possibility of Brett Favre retiring some day (honest, someday he'll make an announcement on 2006) and how in the world can the Packers expect to be much better in 2006?

Better health and luck. Beyond that, there's no real answer. And how much will health and luck improve this team?

GM Ted Thompson is building for the future. It's obvious the way he has attacked free agency, not landing any player relevant outside Pickett. This year's draft is expected to help the Packers win in the future, but not in 2006. Based on how the Packers played in 2005, and with a potential new quarterback, there's no way the Packers are positioned to make a run.

They have seven picks in the draft - three in the top 67. This trio could help the Packers this coming season, but to various levels. Rarely does a team get more than a couple rookies who really make an impact.

And how much can an NFL team count on rookies? If you are, you're in trouble. Last year, the only rookie who made waves was safety Nick Collins. Aaron Rodgers hardly played, wide receiver Terrence Murphy suffered a likely career-ending neck injury, Will Whitticker struggled at guard and linebacker Brady Poppinga suffered a knee injury making his availability for this season iffy.

Poppinga and Whitticker may develop into solid players, but as rookies they were learning on the run.

With that in mind, the Packers will add seven draft picks to their roster next week, we'll hear how good each of them are and expectations will be raised higher than a flag. Nonetheless, teams with aspirations to make the playoffs the following season don't take this route to get there. They sprinkle in quality veteran free agents with rookies. Let's face it, teams don't win with rookies playing a major part.

This approach was the way to do things 10, 15 years ago, but not anymore. A few years ago, San Diego went 4-12 and then followed with a 12-4 season as Drew Brees broke out. The NFL doesn't subscribe to long-term rebuilding anymore, unless a team takes that approach for a reason. Usually salary-cap related.

Teams can make a quick turn of fortune with a few good additions. The Packers haven't made a few good additions. There are no few good men. The Packers are way under the salary cap, have room to add quality players, but haven't done it.

Therefore, Thompson and Co. seem content to build through the draft and take their time in returning the Packers to the playoffs on a yearly basis.

This approach will not only frustrate fans when they see other bottom-feeders rising, it can get a person fired when the organization looks outside its window and sees other one-time struggling teams making the playoffs.

As the Packers put the finishing touches on their 2006 roster this spring through the draft and signing rookie free agents, and maybe other veteran free agents, who can't think the road Thompson has taken the Packers on is a long and windy road with no end in site? Unless something incredible happens in the draft, it appears Thompson has built the Packers to struggle in 2006. He could've added more free agents (I'm not talking break-the-bank players, either), knowing this team struggled so bad in 2005.

But, no. He took an approach all of us will be questioning for the next eight months.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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