JACKSONVILLE – It's palpable, this feeling.
You feel it, don't you? Of course, you do. If you're a Jaguars fan, how could you not?
The anticipation …
The buildup …
The energy …
It's all there as the weekend approaches – or more specifically, as next Wednesday approaches. Five days removed, just about all of the talk on #Jaguars Twitter and among anyone who follows this franchise is about March 9.
That's nearly a week away, and that's the start of the new league year.
That's the start of 2016 free agency – and while the Jaguars have had many anticipated moments in recent offseasons, none have had the buildup as next Wednesday at 4 p.m.
A slew of cap space and a building plan that has focused on adding free-agency pieces in this offseason have combined to make Jaguars fans uncommonly jacked about the current offseason.
A prelude came Thursday. That was when the team announced the release of defensive end Chris Clemons and offensive guard Zane Beadles. The moves cleared more cap space, and provided further indication of free-agency direction – though it was no secret even before the moves that at least part of the free-agency focus was on edge rusher and interior offensive line.
Releasing Clemons wasn't surprising at all, with signs since the end of last season indicating the move's likelihood. Releasing Beadles was a bit more surprising; the thought here was he might return and at least have a chance to compete with heir-apparent guard A.J. Cann.
Either way, neither player appeared to figure prominently in the plans – and in this case, appearances were correct.
Now, all appearances are the next major Jaguars news cycle will come Wednesday. That's what the buildup and anticipation indicate, and make no mistake:
The buildup won't be for nothing.
The Jaguars absolutely will be aggressive when free agency begins – and not because they "must spend money." Recent reports and theories that they have to spend a ton to reach the league's salary-cap floor are erroneous. As General Manager David Caldwell told Pro Football Talk Live this week, the Jaguars can and will easily spend enough to be within league guidelines.
No, the Jaguars will be aggressive for a better reason: because they want to be aggressive, and because it's time to be aggressive.
Caldwell since he took over in 2013 has geared the building plan toward having cap room this offseason – and therefore, toward some big-time supplementing in the coming weeks. Now, he indeed has that cap room and nothing has happened to change the plan to use a lot of it.
It's true Caldwell used cautionary words while discussing this topic at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine last week. It's true he said the team's signings might not be quite as big-splash in nature as some believe. It's true he said you're not going to build long-term greatness through free agency, and it's true you must be careful about who you target in free agency, especially with so many teams flush with cap space. It's also true he said you're probably going to overspend to get players in free agency, and it's very true that at his core he doesn't love free agency.
Yes, all of that's true and so is this:
The Jaguars are going to be on the phone next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during the "legal-tampering" period. They're going to be on the phone big-time Wednesday at 4 p.m. when teams can negotiate with and sign free agents. And they're going to be offering players a lot of eye-catching money, obscene money.
Caldwell's words last week caused some to speculate otherwise. And there's no question that signing the needed players is going to be more difficult – and much more expensive – than the Jaguars anticipate when putting this plan together. Thank the ballooning league-wide salary-cap for that.
But that doesn't mean inactivity. And it won't mean a lack of aggression.
The guess here is some of the players pursued and acquired will be familiar names, the ones that have been discussed often in recent weeks. Edge rusher. Defensive interior. Cornerback. Free safety. Interior offensive line. The Jaguars need upgrades at all spots; come Thursday or Friday players at least at some of those positions will be sitting in front of backdrops at EverBank Field. They'll be as happy as they are wealthy – and they'll be an amazing amount of both.
Will those smiling faces be those of every player every fan wants? No, because that's impossible.
Will the Jaguars get every player they target? That's not quite as impossible, but it's really, really unlikely. There are 31 other teams, after all, and the Jaguars almost certainly won't be the only team targeting their targets.
But are they going to be aggressive? Are they going to spend? Are they going to improve?
Yes, yes, and yes, and that means all of this buildup … it ain't going to be for nothing.
Five more days. Let the countdown begin.