With the NFL trade deadline set for Oct. 30, a usually quiet, anticlimactic day could receive more attention this season. Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network reports the St. Louis Rams are willing to move players for future draft picks and there's persistent buzz that the New York Jets could and/or should move quarterback-personal punt protector Tim Tebow out of the Big Apple.
The Jets acquired Tebow from the Denver Broncos on March 22 in exchange for a pair of mid-to-late-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft and agreeing to repay the Broncos $2.53 million of the $6.2775 million salary advance Tebow received at the start of the 2011 league year. Tebow was unable to unseat Mark Sanchez for the starting job and through the first seven games of the regular season has played in just 49 offensive snaps and 41 snaps on special teams.
Tebow has completed two of his three pass attempts, including a 23-yard connection to linebacker Nick Bellore on a fake punt in Week 6. Tebow also has 22 carries for 76 yards, but has not scored a touchdown and ranks 32nd among NFL quarterbacks in Football Outsiders' rushing DYAR metric (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, which "represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations"), right behind Sanchez (30th) and Eli Manning (31st). Tebow's ranking in DYAR should not come as a surprise, however, as he ranked dead last among qualifying quarterbacks in that metric in 2011.
With the Jets not using Tebow on offense, calls to trade the former Heisman Trophy winner have increased. Rich Cimini of ESPN New York writes that Tebow is "a $2.1 million decoy" on a Jets team that isn't using him properly (Cimini's example of Tebow inexplicably remaining on the sidelines during a third-and-2 play from the New England Patriots' 3-yard line in Week 7 is spot on) and is unwilling to admit defeat by trading Tebow at the deadline. Eric Davis of the NFL Network said on Wednesday's edition of "NFL AM" that the Jets should take whatever they can get for Tebow, even "food stamps," which we're pretty sure is not acceptable compensation under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Hyperbole aside, the Jets probably wouldn't get much in a trade for Tebow, who has not developed into an NFL-caliber quarterback, appears unlikely to ever do so, and has a contract with over $16 million in potential base salary escalators. The Jets would likely seek financial relief from the $2.06 million they're scheduled to repay the Broncos over the next season-and-a-half (26 weeks), which would lessen the return they'd get in a trade.
Still, in the right situation, Tebow could be a valuable player in the NFL. The obvious trade partner would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Blaine Gabbert continues to struggle (ranks 33rd among 34 qualifying quarterbacks in Football Outsiders' DYAR and 32nd out of the 34 in DVOA) as the team hurtles towards the decision on whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. (First-year option must be exercised between after the last game of the 2013 and May 3, so the Jaguars must make that decision by May 3, 2014) The Jaguars were interested in Tebow in March and he'd certainly help the team sell some tickets. But Tebow's value from a football perspective is as a physical and versatile offensive weapon, not a quarterback, so he would not move them, or any team, any closer to solving its quarterback problem.
Unfortunately for Tebow, the two teams who would get the most out of his skill-set are in the AFC East and are unlikely to swing trades to the Jets. The Buffalo Bills are at the top of the list as head coach Chan Gailey unleashed Kordell Stewart during his two seasons (1996-97) as offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers, experimented with Vince Young during the 2012 offseason and called Tebow the "ultimate wildcat kind of guy" before a game against the Broncos last December. While head coach of the Broncos in 2010, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels used the second of the team's two first-round picks on Tebow. While New England could probably use a guy like Demaryius Thomas (the first of the Broncos' two first-round picks that year) more, Tebow would add another versatile weapon to an offense that includes fellow Swiss-army knife and former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez.
Given the size of the hurdles involved in moving Tebow, it would be a surprise if he wasn't on Gang Green on Oct. 31. The clock on his long-future with the Jets is certainly ticking, though, but any trade will have to wait until the 2013 league year starts.