Believe it or not, it seems like the legend of Tebow will be making a return to the NFL.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to sign Tim Tebow to a one-year deal either later this week or next week to play tight end for Urban Meyer’s team, a source confirmed to ESPN on Monday.
Official figures have not been agreed on by both sides, but these will definitely be some of the most unique negotiations in NFL history. Here, we’ve got a 33-year-old Tebow—who looks to be in immaculate shape, to his credit—signing on with 2020’s worst NFL team not to play quarterback, but instead tight end.
One part of that makes sense: the Jags just drafted quarterback Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson with the number one pick, and he is universally expected to be a generational talent. They’ve also still got Minshew Mania sitting as a backup for the time being.
So, the Jags don’t need Tebow under center, but that’s the only part of this that really makes sense. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was seemingly enjoying a cushy gig as a studio analyst for ESPN and the SEC network as a contributor for their college football coverage.
During that time, the Jacksonville native continued his pro athlete dream, shifting his focus to baseball and the MLB in 2016. He played four seasons in the New York Mets farm system, culminating in a 77-game stay with their AAA affiliate in 2019 during which Tebow batted just .163. He announced his retirement from the sport in February, and just like that, the baseball dream was dead.
That must have been when the football dream beckoned to the Florida alumnus once again. He has not played a down in the NFL since 2012 when he had a strange run as a gadget guy with the New York Jets, and has not been a part of a pro NFL team since practice squad stints with the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. Despite that spotty track record, Tebow still believed he could make a comeback.
His old coach from his glory days at the swamp in Gainesville, Meyer, evidently feels the same way. The comeback will be even more strange because it will come with Tebow playing a position, tight end, that he never played throughout his high school, collegiate and pro careers. Early in his career he had been adamant about playing QB, but that feeling seems to have dissipated at this point.
The Jags already have five tight ends on the team in James O’Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Ben Ellefson, Luke Farrell, and Chris Manhertz, so it remains to be seen whether Tebow will even be able to make the team in Jacksonville and contribute to their possible resurgence under the stewardship of Lawrence.
O’Shaughnessy is by far the most experienced of the group, but he’s still only got 88 catches in six seasons. Manhertz was signed during this offseason mostly as a blocking piece, boasting just 12 receptions in 70 games. Ellefson, for his part, has one career NFL catch, Davis was a 2020 sixth-rounder that had zero catches in eight appearances last season, and Farrell was the team’s fifth-round draft choice in the 2021 draft.
Not exactly a group sparkling with talent or potential, so the signing of Tebow as a tight end makes a small modicum of sense if you don’t think too hard about it.
The Jags are currently sitting in third on 888sport’s AFC South odds table with +800 NFL odds to take home the division crown in 2021. That seems like an impossibility for this campaign, but in two or three years, an NFL pick on the Jags in that market could prove fruitful.
Wait another year or two after that, and who knows, maybe Lawrence has the Jags in a place where their odds to win the Super Bowl will be at a more reasonable level than they are right now at +8,000, fifth-highest in the league.
The Tebow family moved to Jacksonville when he was three and he went on to attend high school and play quarterback at Allan D. Nease high school in the Jacksonville area. After four stellar years there, Tebow joined the Florida Gators for his college ball in 2006, a program that was already under Meyer’s management.
Tebow played only situationally in his freshman season, though the Gators did win the national championship. The next year, Tebow became the starter and threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns while also rushing the ball for 895 yards and 23 more trips to pay-dirt, efforts that earned him the Heisman Trophy.
After becoming the first sophomore to take the Heisman Trophy home, Tebow one-upped himself in 2008 by leading the Gators to their second National Championship in three seasons. His Gators would go undefeated during the regular season of his senior season in 2009, but fall to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
By the end of his illustrious career in the Swamp, Tebow had become a national celebrity and set five NCAA records, 14 SEC records, and 28 Florida records. Though there was a lot of push for the Jaguars to draft the hometown kid in the 2010 draft, they took defensive lineman Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick instead.
Tebow ended up in Denver, where he lasted for just two seasons, the second of which he started 13 games and went 8-5, including six game-winning drives in the fourth-quarter and/or overtime. Despite a playoff win, his unorthodox mechanics meant that the Broncos moved on after the season to none other than Peyton Manning.
Funnily enough, Alualu just had the best season of his career at age 34 last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe Tebow can find a little bit of that late-career magic as well, or maybe this is all just another publicity stunt. With Tebow’s stature and visibility, you can never really know for sure