The New York Jets traded for Denver quarterback Tim Tebow on Wednesday, but the unexpected transaction looked for much of the day like an embarrassing fumble.
New York agreed to deal for the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, but the trade nearly fell through because the Jets didn't realize they would need to reimburse the Broncos for $5.1 million in advance salaries paid to Tebow for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. That problem reportedly has been resolved, with the Jets agreeing to pay half of the compensation back to the Broncos.
The Broncos will receive fourth- and sixth-round draft picks for Tebow, and New York will receive a seventh-round selection (all picks come in 2012). Tebow has three years left on the $11.25-million, five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, with base salaries of $1.1 million in 2012, $1.055 million in 2013 and $895,000 in 2014.
"Our goal was to do the best thing for Tim and the Broncos, and I believe the opportunity that presented itself with the New York Jets accomplishes that objective," said John Elway, Denver's vice president of football operations. "Tim made a lot of strides last year and has a very promising career ahead of him. If anyone is willing to put the work in to be great, it's Tim Tebow."
Tebow became expendable for the Broncos on Monday when Peyton Manning announced his desire to work out a deal with Denver. On Tuesday, the Broncos signed the four-time most valuable player to a five-year contract worth $96 million.
Tebow probably will be a complement to starter Mark Sanchez (who recently signed a three-year contract extension) in the wildcat packages of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Tebow could also be a unifying voice in one of the NFL's most fractured locker rooms.
Not everyone thinks the acquisition was a wise move. Former Jets star Joe Namath said in a radio interview that Sanchez, who recently received a contract extension, "should be angry about what's taken place."
"I do not agree with this situation," Namath said on ESPN New York 1050. "I can't agree with it. I just think it's a publicity stunt.
"I'm a Tim Tebow fan. But I'm a bigger Jet fan than I am a Tim Tebow fan."
Many had believed Tebow would be shopped to his hometown of Jacksonville, where he could draw fans in a place that had difficulties filling the stands. The Jaguars did explore the option.
"Earlier this week I asked Gene Smith and his staff to explore the potential of acquiring Tim Tebow," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. "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 ... 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."
Tebow rocketed to NFL stardom last season, even though he was already well-known from his success in college football.
Last season, Tebowmania captivated Denver and, in fact, the entire NFL as the quarterback presided over five come-from-behind victories, including three in overtime, and the Broncos made the playoffs. He replaced Kyle Orton as the starter after the Broncos lost four of their first five games.
Even though he completed only 46.5% of his passes during the regular season, Tebow found ways to win with his legs — he ran for 660 yards and six touchdowns — and with the help of Denver's at-times outstanding defense and special-teams units.
The height of Tebowmania came in Denver's first playoff game, at home against Pittsburgh, when the Broncos stunned the favored Steelers in overtime, 29-23, as Tebow put on a passing display with a season-high 316 yards. The game winner came on the first play of overtime, when he connected with Demaryius Thomas over the middle and the receiver turned upfield for an 80-yard touchdown.
The next week, the Broncos were obliterated by New England, 45-10, in a divisional game in which Tebow completed only nine of 26 passes and was sacked five times by the league's 31st-ranked defense.
After the season, Elway said Tebow had earned the right to be the No. 1 quarterback heading into training camp but wouldn't commit to his being the 2012 starter.