Shahid Khan wants this much made clear:
When it comes to winning, and to putting the best team possible on the field, the Jaguars' new owner said money absolutely will not be an object.
"We've got a salary cap – we're going to be up to the salary cap," Khan said shortly after the team's Ready to Rise Rally drew 6,789 people to EverBank Field Tuesday night.
"In free agency, you have to spend money. You have to spend it wisely. We're going to be spending to the cap."
Khan spoke at Tuesday night's event along with Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith and new Head Coach Mike Mularkey, and with free agency scheduled to open March 13, potential free-agent acquisitions were a topic.
Smith, asked by a fan about targeting wide receivers in veteran free agency, said the team will take the same approach it did last off-season defensively.
The Jaguars signed free agents such as middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, outside linebacker Clint Session, nickelback Drew Coleman, defensive end Matt Roth and safety Dawan Landry shortly before the start of training camp. Partly as a result, the team improved from No. 28 in total defense in 2010 to No. 6 this past season.
"We'll be very aggressive once we target the players," Smith told the crowd when speaking of free agency. "Just like we were on the defensive side (last off-season), we'll try to upgrade the weapons on offense."
Khan, seated near Smith on the stage Tuesday, took the microphone.
"Gene, Mike – please do that," he said, to the crowd's delight.
Khan on a more serious note moments later said whatever the rules dictate the Jaguars can do in free agency, they will do.
"We're going to be competitive," Khan said. "We're going to be going up to the cap, whatever is allowed. That's the wonderful thing about the NFL. You have a cap and we're going to be using it."
Khan during the ceremony told fans he wanted to be held accountable as the team's owner. Afterward, when speaking the media, he reiterated that view.
"That's what I'm here for," he said. "I've been held accountable for everything all my life. To me, I'm going to be the most disappointed fan for the Jaguars if we're not having a good season. For me, I think winning in the NFL is a challenge. It's difficult."
*Smith, speaking to the media after the on-stage portion of the event, also reiterated the need to address offense in free agency, particularly wide receiver. "I think we have to do a good job of targeting the right players," Smith said. "I think we have to be aggressive in the process of pro free agency to add some weapons to our offense. I don't think there's any question at all that that's what we need to do going into pro free agency – and even the college draft."
*Smith said the first priority in free agency will be re-signing the team's own free agents, a list of players that includes defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Matt Roth, cornerback Rashean Mathis and safety Dwight Lowery. That process will start after a roster evaluation period. Smith said he spoke with every player on the roster following the season, "and I let them know that I would be in touch with them and/or their agent. With the new coaching staff coming in, I want to be fair to them, and fair to the players, so when I do call them and I tell them what our plans are they'll now it's clear and decisive in terms of what our approach is going to be. I can tell you it starts with our players, first – that's the priority."
*Khan reiterated what he had said last week – that improving the in-game experience for fans is an immediate priority. He said the Jaguars plan to improve wireless access in the stadium, as well as the in-stadium sound system. "The one thing we do control is this has to be an incredible in-stadium experience," Khan said. "We want to win, but in case we don't, the fans go home and still say, 'Hey, I had a good time. I'm looking forward to the next time.'''
*Khan said a priority moving forward remains "keeping the fans engaged. I think that's very, very important – getting them out of their couches and into the stadium. We're going to be looking at every opportunity to do that."
*Khan said while one reason the Jaguars need high attendance is revenue, a bigger reason is "the energy in the stadium is the most important aspect. Look at the night tonight – if we have this, that's our 12th person in the seats. That's really our homefield advantage. This shouldn't be neutral ground. This should be EverBank Field, where Jacksonville has a huge advantage."
*Khan said he plans to continue the team's Team Teal initiative and assistant it "any way I can."