Break up the Washington Redskins? Not this time.

It took a salary cap sanction for the defending NFC East champions to finally value their own players over marquee free agents. Retaining 12 free agents and gaining several backups on a shoestring budget was truly remarkable.

It wouldn't have happened in past years, when owner Dan Snyder, flush with cash, chased every aging star. Washington was where veterans came to cash out at career's end despite their best days being past. Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Jeff George were the start of the gold rush.

The next decade was filled with horrific financial mistakes that were always pushed back by reworking deals. That is, until the worst one of all forced change.

Albert Haynesworth, undoubtedly the biggest mistake of Snyder's tenure, not only cost a fortune for two non-productive seasons, but swallowing the cap hit during the 2010 uncapped season was too much for even the NFL to ignore during its double-secret owners collusion over salaries.

New York Giants owner John Mara, apparently the keeper of old-school ethics, showed how corporate icons once worked; using a double standard of sanctions against the Redskins while other teams did much the same on a minor scale with no penalty. The other teams weren't in the NFC East with the Giants and Redskins, though.

Mara did the Redskins a favor by forcing smarter spending, though. With two straight $18 million salary cap sanctions, Washington was forced to value its own players and build through the draft rather than previous star-chases that never worked.

The Redskins kept their top free agent, Fred Davis. It didn't hurt the market was flooded with tight ends. Davis' options were Buffalo or returning for a chance of big money in 2014 by playing with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Still, nice move by the Redskins.

Cutting DeAngelo Hall and then re-signing him in a soft market also saved millions to keep veterans like Santana Moss on the roster. The team really needs Hall anyway, given a weak secondary that might be slightly better this season.

In the past, the Redskins would have signed a big-name player and let Hall go. The perfect example was cutting Brian Mitchell in 2000 to sign Sanders. That was brutal. Mitchell still had a few more productive seasons remaining, while Sanders did little aside from sell jerseys.

Keeping special teams snapper Nick Sundberg and punter Sav Rocca was better than finding two cheaper guys. Sundberg and Rocca are contributors.

Retaining Rex Grossman as a reserve quarterback instead of a minimum-salary passer may be worth a win if Griffin heals slowly. Keeping guard Kory Lichtensteiger is important for chemistry on a line that plays better than it should.

The only player lost by the salary cap restriction was special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. If that's all Mara managed to cost Washington, the Redskins won the offseason again.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email