The Packers lost out on free agent LB Jason Gildon. Gildon could have helped the Packers as a pass rusher on 3rd downs, opposite DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and as an outside linebacker if the Packers occasionally switched to a 3-4 alignment. Gildon's career is winding down, and its possible that any number of players currently on the Packers roster can perform as well as Gildon and equal or exceed the 6 sacks Gildon recorded in 2003. Buffalo gave Gildon a $500,000 signing bonus, and the Packers might have had trouble fitting Gildon along with all the unsigned rookies under the salary cap.
Football announcers love to say that defense wins championships, but are the most consistant teams in the NFL great offensive teams? Aaron Schatz on footballoutsiders.com was writing about Baltimore and he hinted at a new projection system he is working on that projected Baltimore as the worst team in the AFC in 2004. Why? Baltimore has a 2000 yard runner in RB Jamal Lewis and the best defense in the NFL? Because defense is less consistant than offense says Aaron. He hasn't published his system yet, but his theory sounds reasonable.
How did Tampa Bay fall from Super Bowl champion in 2002 down to missing the playoffs in 2003? Tampa Bay's defense was ranked the second best in the NFL in 2003 according to footballoutsiders.com (ahead of 2003 Super Bowl winner New England) and the team was essentially the same roster in 2003 as in 2002. Tampa Bay's DT Anthony McFarland was on ESPN's Cold Pizza saying that Tampa Bay's defense was just as good in 2003 as in 2002, except for a few plays over the course of the season. That makes some sense, as Tampa Bay's defense slipped from a percentage ranking on footballoutsiders.com of -30% in 2002 down to -22.5% in 2003. A defense as good as Tampa Bay's defense should have carried that team into the playoffs, but a great defense appears to be no guaranty of success.
Aaron's theory also explains the Packers success with QB Brett Favre as a starting quarterback. The Packers have not had a losing record with Favre as their starting quarterback, which is a remarkable run of winning in the NFL. The Packers have only one championship during Favre's career, but only the 1996 defense could have been considered the best in the NFL. Maybe defense does win championships and maybe a team is unlikely to win the championship without a great defense, but the odds are long of making the playoffs without a consistant offense. Its just another reason that the Packers need to reassure Favre everyday that retirement isn't even an option for him.