This wasn't the plan. The Redskins, loaded with cap space and an aggressive mindset, had ways to improve their roster through spending. Until the NFL intervened. That forced the Redskins to become something they didn't want to be in free agency: spectators.
Nearly four weeks later, there's no doubt the Redskins' plans were altered -- how much is unknown. They signed free agent receiver Pierre Garcon, but every other signing has been a low-cost one. They've signed three veteran safeties to one-year deals and receiver Josh Morgan to a two-year contract.
They've also re-signed three of their unrestricted free agents in linebacker London Fletcher and defensive ends Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston.
But that's not what they anticipated before the NFL removed $36 million in cap space over the next two years for their handling of the 2010 uncapped year.
"Right now, I'm not allowed to talk about it," coach Mike Shanahan told reporters at the owners' meetings last month. "Believe me, I'd like to, but I can't."
The question then becomes: Can the Redskins somehow benefit from their inactivity in free agency? Big, or expensive, classes in the past haven't led to rousing success. Clearly they'd rather have the cap space and ability to decide -- on their own -- if they want a guy or not. And there are moves that might need to be made -- in terms of restructuring contracts or releasing players -- that are prompted by this reduction.
In fairness, this current group has not lured the big-name free agents like the previous regime. They focused on mostly second-tier types in their first two years, including defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen; guard Chris Chester and corner Josh Wilson last summer.
"They're great guys with a different mentality, more blue-collar guys that played well and earned it," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "I always look back at Dallas. They had  Pro Bowlers [after the 2007 season], and they couldn't win a playoff game. You need a core group of guys that are blue-collar guys.
"There were a ton of guys who were blue-collar hardworking guys here in the past, and they said we can't pay you. Then they go elsewhere and still do a good job, and they're willing to bring someone else in and pay him a crazy amount of money."
A Cleveland Plain Dealer chart showed of the 10 teams that signed the most free agents between 2006-11, only three (New Orleans, Houston and Philadelphia) had cumulative records above .500. Five of those teams, including the Redskins, had a winning percentage of .400 or worse.
Meanwhile, of the 10 teams that signed the fewest, six had a combined record of .600 or better and only two (Carolina and Cincinnati) were under .500. And four of these teams won Super Bowls: Indianapolis, the New York Giants (twice), Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
"We didn't knee jerk and we didn't buy the glitter," said one executive with a team that signed few free agents. "Fifty percent of free agents never play to expectations. ... We didn't try to hit home runs, we looked for fits. We were the antithesis of how Washington operates."
The Redskins failed in that sort of quest in the past.
"It was almost like a caste system," former Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson said. "When we brought in guys like Adam Archuleta, and everyone's going to equate what you make to your production. If you're paying guys the most in the league, then he'd better be the most productive guy in the league. It creates animosity in the locker room."
Former Redskins center Casey Rabach said, "It's more position specific. On the line we didn't have that, but you could definitely see it at the receiver position and the defensive back position."
All of this means that the Redskins don't have to be crippled by this offseason. Not that they're really buying that notion. It's impossible to say how it would have turned out.
"I don't know if it's a silver lining because they've done a good job of changing the mentality of how they're bringing guys in," Alexander said. "It's hurting us."