The contract might be for only one year, but with Brett Favre still going strong approaching his 14th NFL season, it's clear that the deal made Tuesday between the Green Bay Packers and former Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch has as much to do with the future as the present.
Speaking to the Wisconsin media on a conference call from his offseason home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Couch -- the first overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft -- made it clear that by coming to Green Bay, he's hoping to someday be more than just a backup.
"Green Bay is a unique situation," said Couch, who started 59 games for the Browns over the past five seasons. "Even though the opportunity to play is not there right away, I think they're a great football team, and ... I really want to put myself in a good situation.
"You know, I've been on some bad teams throughout my five years, and I want to be on a team that's competitive and in the playoffs year-in and year-out. I just want to experience that, and I also think I can learn a lot from just being around Brett and watching how he operates on a day-to-day basis. There were several things that intrigued me about Green Bay."
And, in turn, there were several things that piqued the Packers' interest in Couch. Enough, in fact, to sign him to a one-year deal, knowing that with a new offense to learn there's a chance Couch might not even become the Packers' most polished backup in that span.
"I think getting him here, seeing what he can do, how he fits this offense, whether it was one year or five years, I think it's a plus for us," said Mark Hatley, Packers vice president of football operations. "And I think from there we'll just take it from day to day and see how it works out."
In an ideal world, that would probably be with Couch proving to be a natural fit for the Packers' system, so much so that he'd be willing to turn down possibilities to be a starter elsewhere in 2005, for a shot at replacing Favre somewhere down the road -- even if that road doesn't end for another three seasons or more.
But in the meantime there are plenty of obstacles. And the Packers must first figure out how the Couch era will begin, before imagining where it will go.
Hatley said that the Packers are prepared to take five quarterbacks into training camp: Favre, Couch, Doug Pederson, Craig Nall and undrafted rookie Scott McBrien. How things will shape up from there is anybody's guess.
Asked if it would be presumptive to assume that Couch would be the No. 2 quarterback at the start of training camp in six weeks, Hatley chuckled.
"Without a doubt," Hatley said. "Five (quarterbacks) will go to camp ... We'll just go to camp and let it sort out."
And there will be a lot of sorting to do. While Nall (25) and McBrien (24) are younger and still developing, Pederson (36) has a significant advantage over the rest of the Packers' backups because of his experience as Ryan Longwell's holder. Not to mention his vast understanding of the Packers' West Coast offense.
Still, that's not to say that Couch can't or won't earn the No. 2 spot in 2004, or that he wouldn't be available to replace Favre in the event of injury even if he spent the Sundays until then inactive as the third quarterback.
But for the moment, Couch has an entire offense to learn, no mini-camps left in which to learn it and four other guys to split the reps with when training camp gets under way in August.
It's a challenge, to be sure, but not an insurmountable one, especially for the guy who was called on to be a starter for the expansion Browns his rookie season.
"When I first came into the league, I was a 21-year-old kid and I kind of got thrown right into the fire," Couch said. "Which was a good thing -- I wanted to be there. But I never had the chance to step back and learn the game and look at it from a different perspective. I think this is going to give me that chance where I can come and learn the game and be on a good football team and not have the pressure to go out and carry a franchise on my back."
And while Couch learns, so will the Packers. And by the end of the season, both parties expect to know whether the bulk of their relationship together is behind them or ahead of them.
"I think at this point, we just kind of want to get a feel," Couch said. "It gives the Packers a chance to look at me and see if I'm what they're looking for. And it also gives me a chance to feel out the situation.
"Obviously I want to be (in Green Bay) longer than one year. I hope things work out where I can be there a long time. And we'll see where we are at the end of the year."