|(I have faith in the Redskins current Braintrust of Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen image via)|
As any Redskin fan who's lived through the first decade of the Dan Snyder era can tell you, free agency or accumulating players (usually at or past their prime) through trade is not generally the way to go when it comes to building a team in the modern NFL. You have to build a team via the draft, trade and free agency if you want to have enough talent and depth to have a strong team and survive a brutal 16 game, 17 week season that usually leaves half a dozen of your players on the injured reserve.
The Redskins are starting to become that team.
It's taken 3 seasons for the Redskins to get close to that point. Let's face it though GM Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan were inheriting a mess when they took over in late 2009/early 2010. Despite being gone for two seasons, many elements of Joe Gibbs 2.0 remained with the Redskins. Many of the coaches and players from Gibbs' run were still there even if most were past their prime. There was a ton of dead cap from failed and expensive free agents and there was little depth thanks to multiple trades (a few with Mike Shanahan, then with the Broncos) that left the Redskins draft board barren. The draft picks that the Redskins did have were generally average to poor.
It became even worse in 2008 when full GM control went to Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn tried to build a West Coast style offense using pieces of Al Saunder's and Joe Gibbs units. Cerrato's main actions were to sign Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million contract, sign DeAngelo Hall to a huge contract in 2009 and to botch the 2008 draft so much that only TE Fred Davis and OLB Rob Jackson have been of any use to the Redskins since 2010. Zorn couldn't do much of anything and was eventually stripped of play calling duties by a guy calling Bingo numbers at retirement homes.
In 2010, Shanahan and co. had to realize that they had a mess on their hands, but clearly thought that they could fix it in no time. That seems to be a common trend with experienced head coaches who have had success with other teams during their tenures (Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren come to mind). The Redskins tried one last ditch effort to "win now" and in the process made the two worst moves during the Shanahan tenure: trading for QB Donovan McNabb and OT Jammal Brown. Meanwhile, they were starting to head down a smarter path by drafting linemen, making trades that benefit the Redskins more than hurt them (see the amazing trade they got for Adam Carriker) and trying to fix the problematic contracts that would hurt them for years to come (Haynesworth, Hall).
Skip to 2013. Right now the Redskins have a decent about of depth on the offensive and defensive lines (although the Redskins need to address who will be the starting RT) and at most positions with exception to the secondary. The key for the Redskins will be to find players who can contribute somewhat now and significantly down the road in the draft, continue to make trades that benefit the Redskins by getting good players for little or get lots of picks and to find the occasional free agent that fits the scheme and locker room but won't cost an arm and a leg.