There are a few different ways to build a football franchise. You can stockpile as many draft picks as possible, scout effectively and develop homegrown talent. Or you can trade all your picks away for veteran talent and try to build your team through free agency; you know, kind of like the Redskins. Guess which one of those paths is more effective?
The Green Bay Packers are a model of what your team can become if you scout well and try to build your team with players acquired through the draft. 38 players, including all of their big time difference makers not named Charles Woodson, were drafted by the organization. Another 13 - headlined by Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Cullen Jenkins - were undrafted free agents that Green Bay got to first. It also helps that they don't have any former Redskins on their roster to poison the well. Kidding .... sort of.
Pittsburgh built their team in largely the same manor. After the jump, we'll investigate why it's that technique that is more effective than what Daniel Snyder and the Redskins try to do.
Acquiring talent in the NFL, whether through free agency or the draft, is largely a crapshoot. Even if a player was successful with another team, there is no guarantee that he will be the same kind of difference maker he was with his former club. I don't even need to run down the list of free agent failures the Redskins have brought aboard over the last few years.
That isn't to say that the draft is any more of an exact science. It's pretty hard to acquire good football players that way too. But the difference is that when you keep your own draft picks instead of combining them to get big name players, you have a lot more chances to hit that home run. It is also a lot easier on a franchise, both financially and structurally, if a second round pick doesn't live up to expectations than it is if a big offseason acquisition fails to produce.
Players in the NFL are like lottery tickets. Some of them are going to hit, but most of them are going to miss. When you build through the draft, you buy more tickets. When you try to build with free agents you put all your eggs into one basket. And the Redskins have had a pretty poor history of picking baskets.
It also doesn't help that when the Redskins have stayed in the draft they haven't been very successful, as Mike pointed out earlier. But the blueprint is clear. To succeed in the NFL, you have to do it for the most part with low cost, low risk players that are taken in the draft. Like I said, the NFL is like a lottery, and you can't win if you don't play.