Updated March 22, 2012 @ 3:25 a.m. ET
Two destinations that are polar opposites, Jacksonville and New York, were the final contenders for charismatic QB Tim Tebow, but ultimately the big-market Jets won out.
After a confusing day in which an earlier announced trade of Tebow to the Jets had been placed on hold because the Broncos wanted to recoup some of the money they had already paid Tebow, the two teams finalized the deal, agreeing to split the $5 million that had been a bone of contention.
As a result, Denver ships Tebow to New York in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks this year. In addition, the Broncos will send their seventh-round pick this year to the Jets.
The Jaguars re-entered the fray when the dispute arose over the Broncos' demand that they recoup part of the "advance" paid to Tebow last August. Denver then gave Tebow the option to choose his future team, according to NFL Network's Michael Lombardi, citing a league source, and he rejected the small-market Jaguars for the media capital of the world.
In a conference call with the media Wednesday night, however, Tebow denied that he had the power to decide which team acquired his contract.
"Ultimately, I really didn't have any because the Broncos had all that power," Tebow said, adding that Denver was "gracious" in the way it handled the process. "I was just kind of watching and waiting — kind of like everybody else. It was an interesting day."
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the apparent trade earlier in the day hit a snag because Tebow's contract includes "$5 million worth of recapture language." According to NFL.com, that $5 million is part of a $6.277 million advance that the Broncos paid Tebow last August toward the final four years of his five-year, $11.25 million rookie contract. The Broncos had insisted that the Jets repay them the $5 million for the prorated final three years of the advance in order to acquire the quarterback. In the end the Jets agreed to repay Denver $2.5 million, half of the amount originally requested.
The 24-year-old Tebow started 11 regular-season and two playoff games for Denver last season, leading the team to an AFC West title and an upset victory over the Steelers in the wild-card round of the playoffs. He completed just 46.5 percent of his passes during the season but threw 12 touchdowns to six interceptions and added 660 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground.
His starting job with the Broncos was officially taken on Tuesday when the Broncos signed QB Peyton Manning to a five-year contract. At that time, Denver executive VP of football operations John Elway said the team would look to move the 2010 first-round pick.
"I think where we are as an organization … with the opportunity that presented itself here (to have Peyton Manning's services), we had to take advantage of that," Elway said on Tuesday. "Now that that has happened, we have to go back and address Tim and see what the best situation is for the Broncos, as well as him. To his fans I would say this: "The toughest part about this whole thing is Tim Tebow, because of what I think of him."
The Jets recently gave QB Mark Sanchez a three-year contract extension when it was determined they were not in the running for Manning.
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told reporters on Wednesday night the team has plans to use Tebow as a backup for Sanchez.
"Mark Sanchez is our starter. Tim Tebow is our backup and will be used in other packages," Tannenbaum said.
"Rex has always believed in the 'Wildcat' package. ... He always thought that was difficult to prepare for. We have a vision for the player; we have a role for the player."
"(Tim)'s our backup quarterback. ... He'll have a package, as well. We hope it's a handful for defensive coordinators to prepare for."
Tebow said he had a "great conversation" with Sanchez on Wednesday, adding that they have been friends for several years.
"My goal is to push him to get better, and to push myself to get better every day," Tebow said. "But I think we'll have a great working relationship. We'll have a great relationship off the field, and we've had that the last few years. He's such a classy guy and handles himself so well, and I'll be very honored to call him my teammate."
The Broncos wished their former quarterback well and thanked him for his play in 2011.
"Tim Tebow brought an incredible spirit and spark to our team that helped us turn the season around," Broncos head coach John Fox said in a statement. "Along the way, he earned the trust of his teammates and coaches while inspiring our fans. His competitiveness, clutch performances and will to win played an instrumental role in our team earning a division title and advancing in the playoffs."
Meanwhile, new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan released the following statement about the team's pursuit of Tebow:
"Earlier this week I asked (GM) Gene Smith and his staff to explore the potential of acquiring Tim Tebow," Khan said in the statement. "I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player. I appreciate the high level of due diligence Gene and his staff dedicated to this matter even as late as this evening, and I am very satisfied with the outcome. Our commitment to developing Blaine Gabbert was, and still is, central to our goal of returning the Jaguars to elite status in the NFL. We're looking ahead with zero regrets."
The way we see it
This trade is shocking for several reasons. Though it was widely expected that the Broncos were going to deal Tebow following the signing of Manning, to actually see it happen is a jolt to the football world. Tebow was the most-talked-about player in the NFL in 2011, while the Jets were the most-talked-about team. To see the two now joined will take some getting used to.
For the Broncos, the trade makes complete sense. Tebow was never going to back up Manning, as they are completely different types of quarterbacks. Though he was a first-round pick just two years ago, Elway got decent value for a player much of the league sees as a project. Denver now has the ability to draft a developmental quarterback behind Manning this April.
For the Jets, they have now added another controversy to a team full of them. Sanchez is expected to be the team's starting quarterback, but having a player as popular as Tebow on the bench cannot be good for his confidence. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano used the "Wildcat" formation a lot when he was the head coach in Miami, and it wouldn't be a surprise for him to draw up some formations to get Tebow on the field.
As for the Jaguars, losing out on Tebow is just another slap in the face to the franchise and its new owner. Tebow could have provided a big boost in attendance and fan interest in Jacksonville, and he surely would have had a better chance of winning the starting QB job from second-year man Blaine Gabbert than he will have in New York, where Mark Sanchez just received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed.
Did Tebow trade a better shot at playing time in Jacksonville for the challenge of making some waves under the media spotlight in New York? Stay tuned.