Tim Tebow traded to Jets

Updated: March 22, 2012, 2:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow is coming to New York. Really.

After a big false start, the New York Jets pulled off a Tebow-like comeback Wednesday night, getting the quarterback who turned the Denver Broncos from an also-ran into a playoff team last season and became the NFL's most talked-about player -- for a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick.

The Jets also agreed to pay $2.53 million of a salary advance due Tebow, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, after the question of who would pay that advance nearly unraveled the trade and gave the Jacksonville Jaguars one last shot at bringing the ex-Florida Gators hero back home.

Jacksonville offered the Broncos $3 million toward Tebow's salary advance and a fourth-round draft pick, league sources told Schefter. That pick, based on the draft "value chart" that teams use to determine how to use their picks, is more valuable than the picks the Jets offered, sources said.

The Jets will pay the Broncos $1.5 million in 2012 and $1.03 million in 2013, a league source told ESPN sports business analyst Andrew Brandt. The payments will be made in 1/17th weekly installments.

The Broncos eventually took the Jets' offer. And now Tebowmania will open on Broadway. There's sure to be plenty of drama -- just as there was from the moment the Jets pulled off the deal. Or thought they did, that is.

"I'm thankful they stuck with me through this whole crazy process," Tebow said during a call late Wednesday night, repeating several times that he was "excited" to be a member of the Jets and to play for coach Rex Ryan.

Eight hours after initially agreeing to a trade, the teams completed it. It was hung up when the Jets, sources told Schefter, balked at repaying Denver more than $5 million for the salary advance due Tebow. The two sides agreed to split that cost, and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the team was "comfortable with the compensation," which included Denver's seventh-round pick in April's draft.

He said there was a disagreement about how to handle the salary advance after Denver received the papers.

"We knew what the contract was," Tannenbaum said in a separate conference call Wednesday. "We had read it. ... We felt it was one way; they felt it was another. Based on that, they were well within their rights to assess their different possibilities of what to do and their alternatives. And they did so throughout the day."

The Jets and Broncos initially announced the trade just after 1 p.m. ET Wednesday. But then Denver, according to sources, asked the Jets to pay back a portion of bonuses and salary already paid to Tebow.

Tebow was given a $6.2 million salary advance before the 2011 season, the sources said. Tebow's contract required the Jets to repay the advanced salaries for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons, a total of about $5 million, according to sources.

The Broncos expected the Jets to pay those advances per terms of the contract. The Jets balked at doing so, allowing the Jaguars to re-enter the picture.

Tebow denied that he had final say in where he was going.

"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."

Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement Wednesday night that he asked general manager Gene Smith to look into trading for Tebow.

"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," Khan said. "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 [2011 first-round pick] 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, a former first-round pick, went on the trade block Monday when the Broncos secured free agent Peyton Manning, who signed a five-year, $96 million contract.

Several teams expressed interest in Tebow, but the Jets -- perceived as a sleeper at the outset -- pulled off the splashiest trade of the offseason.

Tebow, who has three years remaining on his contract and a 2012 base salary of $1.1 million, will join a cast of backups behind incumbent Mark Sanchez, but his presence could ignite a quarterback controversy. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie tweeted Tuesday night that "we don't need Tebow," expressing his confidence in Sanchez and the current roster.

Tannenbaum emphasized that the team is committed to Sanchez.

"Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," he said, noting that he had spoken to both quarterbacks and explained their roles.

Tebow said he had a "great conversation" Wednesday with Sanchez, adding that they've been friends for several years.

"My goal is to push him to get better and to push myself to get better every day," said Tebow, who won't be introduced publicly until Friday at the earliest, "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."

Asked Tuesday what he thought it would be like to play with Tebow, Sanchez told Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles, "I think Peyton [Manning] will do great; I think Tim will do great no matter what happens. He's either going to get a great chance to learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, or he moves on somewhere else and he uses his skills on another ballclub. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win; he knows how to inspire players."

The timing of the trade is curious for New York.

Two weeks ago, the Jets gave Sanchez a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension, professing their faith in him even though he regressed last season. They signed former Detroit Lions backup Drew Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, handing him a $500,000 signing bonus. They also have former Alabama star Greg McElroy on the roster.

In an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on Thursday, Tannenbaum made it clear that Tebow is No. 2 on the team's depth chart and that the team is considering keeping four quarterbacks on the roster.

"We've spoken to Drew and his agent," Tannenbaum said.

A league source told ESPN's Schefter that Stanton is unhappy about what has transpired -- considering he had opportunities to be the No. 2 quarterback in Tampa Bay or Kansas City -- and will ask the Jets to trade or release him.

The Jets see Tebow as a change-of-pace player with the ability to run the wildcat offense. They have used the wildcat in recent years but cut back last season with the departure of Brad Smith. The new offensive coordinator is Tony Sparano, who introduced the wildcat to the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins.

"It is very clear: They want me to come in and compete and get better, and get better as a quarterback and to help the team any way possible," Tebow said. "Whatever that role is, I will do my best."

Tannenbaum said Tebow makes the Jets "a diverse, more dynamic offense that's going to make it more difficult for opposing teams to defend."

Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was among those unhappy with the trade when it was first announced.

Tannenbaum Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback.

-- Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum
on Tebow trade affecting Mark Sanchez

"I'm just sorry that I can't agree with this situation. I think it's just a publicity stunt. I can't go with it. I think it's wrong," Namath told "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN1050 in New York. "I don't think they know what they're doing over there."

Asked whether he hoped the deal would ultimately fall through, Namath said, "Absolutely."

"And I'm a Tim Tebow fan, but I'm a bigger Jet fan than I am a Tim Tebow fan," Namath said.

Ryan, however, wants the Jets to get back to being a power-running team, and New York has only one proven back, Shonn Greene. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Tebow rushed for 660 yards last season, including a 20-yard touchdown in the final minute to beat the Jets 17-14 in a November game at Denver.

A few weeks earlier, Tebow beat Sparano and the Dolphins with one of his trademark comebacks, overcoming a 15-0 deficit to win in overtime 18-15.

There's also some thought that Tebow and his clean-cut image could help polish the negative perception of the Jets' locker room, torn by discord last season. But others close to the team said that was no factor in the decision.

The potential for backlash remains, however. Tebow brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he's been a role model since his days at Florida, where he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.

Tebow's enormous popularity could turn into a distraction, especially for Sanchez. If Sanchez struggles, the fan base could turn on him and start clamoring for Tebow.

"We obviously know Tim has a magnetic following and he's a dynamic person, but every starting quarterback has a backup quarterback," Tannenbaum said Wednesday. "If you struggle, we understand the popularity of any backup quarterback. This one is a little more unique than others. Mark, in this market, has shown resilience and toughness."

This also will be an adjustment for Tebow as he returns to a backup role. He became one of the most popular athletes in the nation last season, replacing Kyle Orton and leading the Broncos -- seemingly dead after a 1-4 start -- to an 8-8 record and the AFC West title. He did it with a run of miraculous finishes, one more improbable than the next.

Tebow won his first playoff game, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime. The following week, Tebow crashed hard in a 45-10 loss to the New England Patriots.

Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway anointed Tebow the starting quarterback going into training camp, but that didn't prevent him from entering the Manning sweepstakes.

Clearly, the Broncos were troubled by his flawed mechanics as a passer. Tebow completed only 46.5 percent of his throws last season.

"As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim," Elway said in a statement Wednesday. "He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver."

It should be interesting to see how Tebow is welcomed in the Jets' locker room. During the run-up to last November's game, the Jets' defensive players weren't complimentary when discussing his passing skills. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Tebow's unorthodox style as an option quarterback couldn't sustain long-term success in the NFL.

As it turned out, Tebow made the playoffs and Sanchez didn't. Sanchez struggled down the stretch, fueling speculation about his future. Publicly, team officials backed him, but also promised the quarterback depth chart would have a different look in 2012.

They weren't kidding.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini and Jane McManus, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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