After a half-day of uncertainty, Tebow-mania finally got as close as it's been to its New Jersey address.
The Jets announced tonight that they have again agreed in principle on a trade with the Denver Broncos for Tim Tebow, the incredibly athletic, deeply religious comeback quarterback.
The announcement came more than nine hours after the Jets first announced they had agreed in principle on the trade around 1 p.m. ET, but then put things on hold due to a disagreement over how advance payments in Tebow's contract would be handled.
But after ESPN reported that the Jaguars had reentered the sweepstakes to try to acquire Jacksonville's favorite son after they first bowed out of Tebow trade talks this morning, and then that the Broncos were giving Tebow his choice of trade destinations, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told reporters from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on a conference call tonight that a deal had finally been reached.
"Tim's a competitor and a winner," Tannenbaum said. "This is an opportunity to add a dynamic playmaker and we're really excited about it.
"Internally we certainly had discussions about what we were comfortable giving up. There was a pretty robust debate internally," Tannenbaum said when asked if he ever thought about walking away from the deal as day turned to night. "Like any deal, you try find a landing spot. Sometimes you find it, sometimes you don't. This one took a lot longer than we thought it would but we feel really good about the results."
The GM also said he, head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano feel about what this does for the Jets offense. Tannenbaum said several times that Mark Sanchez remains the starter but that Tebow now moves ahead of newly signed veteran Drew Stanton and second-year man Greg McElroy on the QB depth chart.
"Mark is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," he said. "We're adding Tim to be our backup quarterback. We've talked to both Mark and Tim. Tim knows about that and Mark knows about that. They're both very clear in what their roles will be."
But Tebow wasn't pursued in this half-day trade marathon just to play quarterback. The danger he presents as a thrower and runner in those Wildcat-style offenses has intrigued both Ryan, who likes the challenges that gives to any defense, and Sparano, who helped repopularize the formation when he became the Dolphins' head coach in 2008 and put the ball in the hands of RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams quite often.
"To run a successful Wildcat is not a pipe dream — we've done it for a few years here," Tannenbaum said. "To see what Coach Sparano has done with it is not a projection. To see what Tim Tebow has done with the ball in his hands is not a projection. We have a vision for the player and a role for the player. With him backing up Mark, we like the depth and we like the athleticism. We're just excited to add the football player to our team."
Tebow wowed Denver fans and the NFL and grabbed the interest of the country during last season as he stepped in as the starting QB for the Broncos in the seventh week of the season and led them from their 1-4 start to a 7-4 finish, the AFC West title at 8-8, and into the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Then the Broncos proceeded to upset the AFC North champion Steelers, 29-23, with an 80-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas on the first offensive play of overtime. Only then did Tebow and the Broncs come back to earth with their 45-10 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.
One of those regular-season victories, of course, came in Week 11 when Tebow struggled against the Jets for most of the Thursday night game, and in fact was under center for eight consecutive punts, seven of them on three-and-outs. But with 5:54 left, he led the Broncos on a 12-play, 95-yard drive capped by his 20-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left to pull out the 17-13 win.
Tebow became available when the Broncos announced the signing of Peyton Manning on Monday. Among the teams reported to be interested in trading for the 6'3", 245-pounder from Florida, were the Jags, Packers and Dolphins. Miami dropped out just about the time some reporters were hearing that the Jets had a growing interest in bringing him back to the East Coast, onto Rex Ryan's team and into coordinator Tony Sparano's offense.
The Jets have not announced the terms of the trade agreement, although it has been widely reported that the Jets will give up their fourth- and sixth-round picks in this draft and get back Denver's seventh-round pick. Tannenbaum said at the top of his remarks that this transaction is still "an agreement in principle as of now. There are still some details to be worked out."