If you want to see where the Redskins have gone wrong in the past in free agency, you don't need to look far- there's a litany of errors committed by the Redskins' front office in the past 20 years.
If you're looking for a break in the tragic cycle that has become the Redskins' mantle, start here in 2012.
This isn't the typical free agent spending spree that has defined this franchise in years past. The Albert Haynesworths of this world have taught the 'Skins a lesson that they would do well to always remember.
Everything about this offseason is measured in terms of need.
Thanks to the NFL and the punitive damages handed down the Redskins in the form of $36 million of salary cap reductions, Dan Snyder couldn't go on a spending spree even if he wanted to.
Mike Shanahan, now entering his third year as head coach, is running out of options. The wiggle room he might have had when he first arrived in Washington has dwindled significantly in the wake of collecting only 11 wins over the last two seasons.
Mike and Kyle both understand how thin the ice is. Another five- or six-win season will ensure that it breaks and when it does, a vitriolic Dan Snyder will be waiting down below holding the proverbial axe.
So what do you do if you're Mike Shanahan?
Simple: go out and get who you need to right the ship.
When the Redskins traded up to collect the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft from the St. Louis Rams, everyone and their grandmother knew who the Redskins who were preparing to bring to DC.
Robert Griffin III may well be "Superman" (if his socks are any indication) but even the last son of Krypton needed help from time to time.
So far, the Redskins have managed to reel in two wide receivers in Pierre Garcon and DC native Josh Morgan. Are they stars? No. Garcon is easily the more prolific of the two, and he's yet to break 1,000 yards in a season.
They're talented, though. Talented, young and hungry.
If the Redskins have misfired in the past it's because they were star struck enough to overpay for someone over-the-hill. With Garcon and Morgan, you're getting two receivers entering their athletic prime with a lot left to work for.
It's the same story with recently signed safety Brandon Meriweather. He brings youth but also solid experience to a secondary that has looked porous over the last few seasons.
How can we sound the alarm when, for the first time in years, the Redskins have actually shown restraint in free agency? What signings they have collected are predicated upon filling an urgent need while also maintaining the Shanaplan's guiding maxim, which is to build (through the draft or free-agency) on youth.
There's still a lot of free agency to go, mind you and the Redskins seemed prime to bring more new faces in the door based on who we've seen released over the last few days.
Moves will be made, though.
There simply is no idle time set aside for this organization moving forward.
With that in mind, though, do we count the cap penalty as a blessing in disguise? Did the NFL inadvertently save the Redskins from themselves by trimming their free agency expense budget in half?
It's a great question to reflect upon.
What's certain is that the Redskins, whoever else they sign from this point on, will be attempting to do it on a budget. That should make most of us happy, considering the deficit the Redskins have been trying to climb out of ever since spending has been at an all time high and the on-field return has been at a historic low.
Ultimately, it's about outfitting the Redskins' new signal caller with the tools essential to winning football games.
Unless a freak solar storm impacts the earth in such a way that the draft order is irrevocably changed and the Redskins end up with Andrew Luck, we can count on Robert Griffin III being under center for the 'Skins this fall.
With that in mind, it's about protecting Griffin as well as giving him the right weapons. When you look at the roster as it stands and throw in Garcon and Morgan, I'd say the Redskins are almost at their offensive quota, save for a much needed addition to the interior of the offensive line.
Eric Winston, Jacob Bell—we're looking at you.
So far, the Redskins have shown that they might just be taking the high road in free agency. There's no doubt that Bruce Allen will labor mightily to balance the scales having given up so much to jump to the No. 2 spot in the draft and that this will have to occur through free agency.
I like what they've done so far. They've brought in young talent without the potential baggage of a superstar demanding a five year, $50 million contract.
The Redskins brass would be wise to continue this trend.
The famine in DC has lasted for far too long. I won't bother to count off the broken promises made over the course of the last 15 years—there are far too many. What I will do is emphasize the fact that, with his pockets suddenly much lighter, Dan Snyder and his need to focus on getting players who can benefit down the road.
More importantly, it's about identifying players who are hungry enough to make themselves into the $50 million man and I believe that is what the Redskins are currently doing.
It's time to build a team in DC. The days of trying to buy an NFC title are gone. Even the days of buying an NFC East title are gone (Looking at you Philly). You simply can't build a house on top of weak, sodden earth, no matter how much you stack under it.
At this rate, we'll forgo shiny, expensive options in favor of utility and a willingness to work.
This might not be the superstar line-up featuring Vincent Jackson or Carl Nicks that many were hoping for and this is perhaps the most encouraging fact of all.
There's megatons of work to be done here in DC. I have a feeling the players arriving on the free agent express are ready to get their hands dirty.