Jaguars Are All-In

Based on their offseason spending, if you didn't know better, you'd think that the NFL's Jaguars reside in a major city such as New York, Washington D.C., or Dallas, instead of their small market home in north Florida. Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver is certainly not a poor man by any stretch of the imagination, but he's also not an oil tycoon or software billionaire like some other NFL owners.

If you knew nothing else about the Jaguars, and just paid attention to their offseason, you'd be certain that they are a team from a large market with a multi-billionaire owner, as Wayne Weaver has thrown his hard-earned money around by bringing to town pricey free agents such as Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence, as well as signing head coach Jack Del Rio to a five-year extension, and just yesterday locking up the team's starting quarterback, David Garrard, to a seven-year deal, worth approximately $60 million.

While the current collective bargaining agreement is anything but small market owner friendly, most people couldn't blame a small market owner if he were to sit out the first week of free agency in which the top players receive the highest contracts, rather than be one of the league's biggest participants. Wayne Weaver has thrown caution to the wind and become a spendthrift, as he tasted the franchise's first bit of postseason success in 2007, and seems to be intent on bringing a championship to Jacksonville. Weaver spoke in front of the press following the announcement of head coach Jack Del Rio's contract extension—

"The thing I am most excited about is what Jack and his staff have done in terms of fostering an environment that has created an attitude with his players, that they really have an expectation to win, and they believe that they can compete at the highest level. I think what it does (the contract extension), it creates a stability and continuity that moves us closer to my commitment to this community and Jack's commitment to bringing a championship to Jacksonville."

Wayne Weaver has certainly made a financial commitment to his organization, and this is nothing new, as he's been committed for quite a few years now. Just a few seasons ago, with the Jaguars having a seating capacity of better than 76,000 and having trouble achieving sell-outs, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver decided to tarp over nearly 10,000 seats to achieve a capacity that is more in line with what the Jacksonville market can sustain. This decision likely cost the Jaguars owner millions of dollars in lost revenue, a sacrifice he made to allow the team to reach the blackout number and be featured on local television to help grow the fanbase.

"I think everyone realizes the stadium was somewhat oversized in terms of capacity because of the goal of having it big enough so that you could play a Super Bowl here, having it big enough so that you could play the Florida-Georgia game here, having it big enough so you could play college bowls here," said former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

In the past month, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has spent nearly $130 million on player contracts, and approximately $35 million in signing bonuses while desperately trying to bring a championship to the city of Jacksonville. That doesn't even include the extension for Jack Del Rio, which is rumored to be in the neighborhood of $4+ million per season. What's even more amazing is that this spending spree has come following a season in which the team had multiple blackouts.

Speaking in terms of America's latest craze, poker, Wayne Weaver has gone "all-in." With the country's second-largest market of Los Angeles pining for an NFL franchise, Weaver has rebuffed any suggestion that the franchise could move out of north Florida, even though the proper business move would likely be to relocate. Weaver's Jaguars finished 2007 with an 11-5 record and a very explosive offense, still they ranked 23rd in the NFL in average home attendance, and dead last in percentage of attendance filling just 88.5% of the available seats.

Wayne Weaver has sent a loud and clear message to the people of Jacksonville with his spending, being that he is going to do whatever it takes to win, now are the people of Jacksonville going to show up? To once again put it in poker terms, Wayne Weaver has just called.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular syndicated contributor to, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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