The NFL offseason is a great chance for teams to bolster their rosters and really sharpen their chances of making a positive leap in the coming season.
There's a heavy handful of teams that will need to use this time wisely. That being said, three teams stand out more than most as franchises that need to make some smart moves before next season begins.
The Washington Redskins are one franchise that could benefit a lot from free agency and the draft. A strong offseason could help put them back in the mix for the NFC East crown—as long as they're smart about it and don't make Vinny Cerrato-like decisions.
At the end of the day, Washington is just one of many teams that will need to make their mark this offseason.
The Cleveland Browns have a ton of holes in their roster, and they won't be able to patch them all up with draft picks, so they will have to be especially active during the free-agency period. Wide receiver is at the top of their needs, but the offensive line isn't far behind.
The Browns will have a great chance to land a solid receiver during free agency, and Hakeem Nicks might be their best bet for a No. 2 receiver. They do have a great receiver in Josh Gordon, but they desperately need some depth behind him.
Aside from Nicks, Cleveland could lock in on Jeremy Maclin, the former Philadelphia Eagle. He missed the large part of 2013 with injury but will be 100 percent once training camp starts, meaning he could make a big impact right away.
Pairing either of these two receivers with Gordon would easily make for one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL.
When it comes to offensive linemen, Cleveland should make a nice offer to its incumbent center, Alex Mack. He's just 28 years of age and has been great for the Browns thus far.
If they aren't able to reel Mack back in, then Brian de la Puente would make for a nice replacement. He was a very solid piece of New Orleans' O-line last year and would certainly help fill the void that would be left by Mack.
This offseason, the Washington Redskins will finally be rid of the cap restraints that have drastically limited them the past couple of seasons. They don't have a whole lot of issues talent-wise, but the positions they need help at need a lot of work.
The secondary is what first comes to mind, and a nice, experienced safety would certainly help add a different dimension to Jim Haslett's defense. A guy like T.J. Ward would be a great fit—he's great in coverage and is a ferocious hitter.
Ward's been extremely productive for the Browns since being drafted by them and would be a great addition to Washington's defense.
Would drafting a safety be better than signing one in free agency for Washington?
Besides a free-agent safety, the Redskins could opt to draft a new defensive back, and someone to consider would be Deone Bucannon. The small-school prospect has great size and is one of the rangier safeties in the draft. He possesses great speed and does a nice job of driving in on the football.
Another need of the Redskins is offensive tackle, as they obviously need a bookend compliment to All-Pro Trent Williams. This year's draft class boasts a generally talented group of guys, and Washington will likely be able to find a solid one in the middle rounds.
Ju'Wuan James from Tennessee is someone the Redskins could develop a keen eye on; he was a productive tackle in college, although there is definitely room for improvement. James has the size and potential to really be coached into a stellar player and could turn out to be a quality sleeper pick.
Carolina took a giant step forward in the NFC during the 2013 season and could take the next step toward football supremacy with a strong offseason. For the Panthers, it's more about quality than quantity.
They don't have many needs and are just one good player away from being that much better. Positions of need for Carolina include wide receiver and offensive line, with receiver being the top priority.
It's becoming clear that Steve Smith is nearing the end of his career, and Carolina will need a replacement for him who can compliment him in the meantime.
Hakeem Nicks would be a nice fit here for a few reasons. He's in similar size to Smith and has been productive as a No. 1 receiver for a very good New York Giants team. He's originally from North Carolina, so joining the Panthers would be a homecoming of sorts for Nicks, which may attract him to Charlotte.
Considering Carolina also has a big need at offensive tackle, the Panthers could find a nice compliment to Jordan Gross (should they re-sign him, that is). If they don't bring Gross back, then offensive line becomes much more important to fix.
A player they should at least kick the tires on is Branden Albert, the former Kansas City Chief. He was a tremendous player in their impressive running game and would be a great fit in Carolina. He's very experienced and could help open things up even more for the Panthers' already potent rushing attack.