Entering the fifth offseason of his tenure with the Washington Redskins, general manager Bruce Allen faces a mountain of tasks.
Under Allen's management, three of the last four Redskins teams have finished with losing records. Blame was deflected unto head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff upon their termination on Black Monday.
Through Shanahan's firing, Allen received a stay of execution from owner Dan Snyder, but his time and excuses are running out. Allen must produce a winner now, or he'll be the next victim of the Snyder machine.
Without a first-round pick, free agency will be Allen's best opportunity to shore up the weak spots on his team. Here are five free agents that Allen should consider pursuing:
1. Hakeem Nicks
In 2013, wide receiver Pierre Garcon made history by being just the second Redskins receiver ever to catch over 100 passes, and broke Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk's franchise record for receptions in a season.
Garcon finished with 113 receptions to lead the team. And lead is an understatement. The second-leading receiver on the team was tight end Jordan Reed, who registered 45 receptions despite starting in just four games and missing the final quarter of the season due to injury.
Hakeem Nicks would be just what the Redskins need going forward offensively: a physical, experienced receiver that's not too old and won't cost a fortune.
In fact, Nicks' stock as a free-agent prospect dropped dramatically as a result of the 2013 season where he underachieved tremendously, not registering a touchdown for the first time in his career. His potential remains high and he's succeeded in the past, catching at least 75 balls in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
2. Brandon Spikes
Brandon Spikes is a player that's reasonably similar to Hakeem Nicks in that he, too, is young, experienced and affordable by way of his knee injury, as reported by Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe.
The former New England Patriot is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could provide a substantial aid in run support, an area where the Redskins struggled in 2013—allowing 110.6 rushing yards per game.
The knock on Spikes is that his pass defense is inferior. The fact is, Spikes recorded two interceptions this year—the entire Washington linebacking corps recorded three.
3. Aqib Talib
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall had a solid season, recording four interceptions and scoring two defensive touchdowns. That being said, his defensive backfield counterparts didn't share the same level of success.
Josh Wilson, despite being excellent in run support and being the team's second-leading tackler, was exposed in a big way in the passing game. The former Seattle Seahawk deflected just seven passes and recorded one interception as a full-time starter.
Aqib Talib is a ball hawk in the truest sense of the word. Going on his eighth season, Talib has intercepted four or more passes in all but three seasons. He would be an excellent help to a miserable secondary.
4. Jarius Byrd
Free safety Brandon Meriweather has been nothing short of disappointing with the Redskins after his tremendous tenure with the New England Patriots.
The former Miami Hurricane has been a distraction in the media by way of his fines and suspensions, a liability by his injury and an overall erratic performer.
With Meriweather likely out, Washington will need a new free safety. Enter: Jarius Byrd.
Byrd is probably the best pass-defending safety in the free-agent class of 2014. As the starting free safety of the Buffalo Bills, Byrd recorded 22 interceptions in just five short years.
He may not come cheap, but Byrd is an asset that would be invaluable for the Redskins.
5. Mat McBriar
Nobody wants to hear about the punter, but punting was a disaster for Washington in 2013 and a lot of it falls on punter Sav Rocca. At age 40 and following a season in which he experienced career lows in punting average and net punt, Rocca is likely finished with the Redskins.
The Redskins allowed a league-worst 16.8 yards per punt return, including this 74-yard return touchdown by the Kansas City Chiefs' Dexter McCluster.
Out of the five free-agent punters in 2014, Mat McBriar is likely to be the cheapest, per Overthecap.com. A two-time All Pro, McBriar is a solid choice because of his body of work, experience and affordability.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all stats were gathered via Pro-Football-Reference.com