The Washington Redskins must use the 2014 NFL free agency and draft processes to get stronger up front on both sides of the ball. But as well as fortifying the trenches, the NFC East's basement team must also fix a downright awful secondary and special teams.
The good news is that with their cap penalty set to be lifted, the Redskins do have money to spend for the first time in two seasons. According to Overthecap.com, there should be just under $17.5 million in cap space.
The team can also create additional space by parting with several underperforming free agents. Severing ties with Fred Davis, Santana Moss, Joshua Morgan and Adam Carriker would save a healthy chunk of change and swell the kitty.
Here is a look at what Washington can do with its money this offseason, starting with the defensive line.
Cam Thomas would be a good choice at nose tackle.
Cam Thomas, NT, San Diego Chargers
The defense needs more beef along the front and 26-year-old Cam Thomas fits the bill. The hulking road grader is a natural anchor for a 3-4 scheme.
Adding his 6'4", 330-pound frame to the middle of a three-man line would automatically make the Redskins tougher in the trenches.
Thomas is more of a natural two-gapper than current starter Barry Cofield. He is better equipped to absorb blockers and keep linebackers clean, something that has been a major issue this season.
Thomas has his best years in front of him and is worth a decent investment from a team that has still lacks enough of the right fits for the 3-4.
Paul Soliai can dominate inside.
Paul Soliai, NT, Miami Dolphins
If the Redskins want a more experienced and versatile pro as the beating heart of their defensive line, they should look no further than Paul Soliai.
The rugged Miami Dolphins ace is a terror on the inside thanks to his size and deceptive athletic range. Soliai can move and move well, especially for a man standing 6'4" and weighing 340 pounds.
He has been a linchpin in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. That flexibility could appeal to the Redskins if they opt for another scheme change heading into 2014.
Arthur Jones is a player on the rise.
Arthur Jones, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Arthur Jones could be one of the steals of 2014 free agency. Whichever team snares him away from the Baltimore Ravens will be getting a nasty D-lineman on the rise.
Jones can play multiple positions along the front and comfortably adopt the guise of run-stuffer or pass-rusher. He would fit perfectly in Washington as a move lineman in a more hybrid version of the 3-4.
If the team opts to keep Cofield over the center, they could upgrade either end position by signing Jones.
Wade Smith fits the current blocking scheme.
Wade Smith, G, Houston Texans
Predicting signings to upgrade the O-line is tricky with the future of head coach Mike Shanahan up in the air. If he goes, so could the zone-based scheme he installed in 2010.
However, that system has served running back Alfred Morris very well, so a new regime may keep it intact. With that in mind, zone-blocking veteran Wade Smith would be an excellent addition along the interior.
He has quick feet and works well in space, crucial requirements for this system. But the 32-year-old does lack daunting size.
That could put many off, considering how this season's tiny tots have been pushed around. But Smith is a highly skilled blocker with an edge of tenacity to his game.
His experience and technical quality make him a real bargain gem this offseason.
Weston Richburg is a mobile run-blocker.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
The Washington offensive line needs a new center. Somebody who can identify and adjust to blitzers and get out into space would be nice.
He is not as lauded as Arkansas' Travis Swanson, but Colorado State's Weston Richburg is a great fit. He is pretty nifty for a player who occupies the middle of the trenches.
Richburg is also a shrewd run-blocker and a smart overall technician.
Cameron Erving could contribute immediately at a problem position.
Cameron Erving, T, Florida State
As things stand, Washington will probably own one of the prime picks at the start of the second round. If Florida State's Cameron Erving has been left on the board, the Redskins should pounce.
An imposing, athletic specimen like Erving could immediately upgrade things at right tackle. That has been a problem position since Shanahan took over.
Erving would have to switch sides, but he is talented enough to do it. The former defensive tackle is quick off the ball and knows how to use his hands to tick off pass-rushers.
Dion Bailey has the hybrid skills the Redskins need at safety.
Dion Bailey, S, USC
What the Washington secondary needs most is a hybrid playmaker at safety. Dion Bailey can answer the call.
The USC heavy hitter has played both linebacker and safety for the Trojans and just has a knack for swarming to the ball. He has the frame to matchup with "move" tight ends and the speed to rotate over the top of deep routes.
The Redskins should be boosted by the return from injury of 2013's fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas ahead of next season. Bailey could join him to form a dynamic young partnership.
Jairus Byrd is a prolific ball hawk.
Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills
If there is one player Washington could justify splashing the cash for this offseason, it is free safety Jairus Byrd. He just does not stop making plays.
The Buffalo Bills ball hawk is like a slot machine that always comes up fumble and interception. Despite missing the first five games mired in a contract dispute, Byrd has returned to intercept four passes.
In just under five seasons, the 27-year-old has pilfered 22 interceptions and forced 10 fumbles. You simply can't put a price on that level of opportunism.
The Redskins should be set at cornerback if they retain free agents DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. This year's top rookie David Amerson can also improve, provided he is played in a system that suits his size.
But safety is a serious issue and where the changes need to be made in this defensive backfield.
Dexter McCluster, WR/PR, Kansas City Chiefs
It's probably too soon to mention Dexter McCluster's name in Redskins circles, after he destroyed the team in Week 14. But the pint-sized speedster who travels faster than a sneeze would fill two needs for Washington.
The first would be his obvious impact on a diabolical return game. McCluster, as we know, is a threat to take any punt for six.
Not only would he lend instant credibility to the worst special teams in living memory, but McCluster could also prove invaluable on offense.
The Redskins lack a receiver who can attack effectively from the slot. McCluster can do that and has the versatility to be used from multiple positions.
The roving smurf would be one of the best signings of free agency, provided he can be tempted away from the revived Kansas City Chiefs.
Any combination of these players would instantly upgrade the weakest areas on the team ahead of 2014.