Johnson said Tuesday the Jets' talent evaluators gave the much-maligned Smith "a very high score" for his intangibles, revealing they would've picked the former West Virginia star in the first round if they had traded down with the 13th overall pick.
"I'm extremely happy to have him," Johnson told reporters at an NFL symposium in Philadelphia, adding: "He's welcome to the competition. It's going to be fun."
The quarterback competition won't include Tebow, who was released last week in a long-anticipated move. One year after proclaiming, "You can never have too much Tebow," Johnson acknowledged they goofed by trading for the popular backup.
"The fit, obviously, wasn't perfect or he would still be there," said Johnson, commenting for the first time since Tebow's release. "It's just one of those things. You make a lot of decisions in football that aren't going to help, that aren't helpful, and you have to move on from those decisions.
"When you make bad decisions, you make a decision that doesn't work ... I'm not saying it's a bad decision. [When] you make a decision that doesn't help the team, you move on. You have to learn to do that."
Johnson also has changed his stance regarding incumbent Mark Sanchez. The owner, fiercely supportive of Sanchez last year in the aftermath of the controversial Tebow trade, backed off considerably, echoing the sentiment of new general manager John Idzik.
"At the quarterback position, it looks like we're going to have some competition, but we want it at every position," Johnson said.
When the Jets picked Smith in the second round (39th overall), it fueled speculation about Sanchez's future. There were rumblings he could be released despite a massive salary-cap hit.
Idzik's plan is to bring Sanchez to training camp to compete primarily against Smith and veteran journeyman David Garrard. While no one in the organization has said definitely that Sanchez will be on the preseason roster, Johnson strongly suggested that will be the case.
"I would expect him to compete," he said. "He's under contract."
The organization has lost faith in Sanchez after back-to-back 26-turnover seasons, hoping Smith can make a serious run at the starting job as a rookie.
Smith has yet to take a practice snap -- rookie minicamp begins Friday -- but he's also lugging a significant amount of baggage. He has received a heavy dose of criticism since the draft, with unnamed scouts and personnel types questioning his maturity.
Even though he has met Smith only once -- the standard, 15-minute interview at the scouting combine -- Johnson didn't seem concerned.
"We evaluate all those traits, skills and communication and leadership and all that," he said. "We evaluated that, and he got a very high score with us. He was the next guy on our board when we drafted him."
Johnson was careful not to label Smith a franchise quarterback, lest he inflate expectations. He did that last year with Tebow, saying he'd be with the Jets for the rest of his contract, through 2014.
"I'll let the competition go," Johnson said. "We'll just see how it goes. I don't want to prejudge it because they've got to go in there and compete every game. We'll see when they step on the field."
Johnson preached patience, referring to the entire team, not only Smith's development. The Jets are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project.
"Yes, be patient," he said. "Be patient and trust that we're doing the right thing for your team. ... It's going to take ... you have to have a little bit of faith. Watch."
ESPN.com's Ashley Fox contributed to this report.