It certainly feels like it is more of a matter of "when" and not "if" when it comes to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tim Tebow.
The former Florida Gators and Denver Broncos quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner has been tied to the Jaguars as a tight end conversion project for the last several weeks, and NFL Network reported Monday that the Jaguars are "expected" to sign the 33-year old.
“Tim and I’ve talked about, when he was a quarterback in the NFL that was a big topic. I was so busy I didn’t give him the time. ‘What do you think? What do you think?’ and I didn’t know, I was too busy to even think it through. I know playing a position in the National Football League without — that’s a long shot, this is years ago," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on May 1.
"How did it happen this time? We had a conversation. He worked out with our tight ends coach, I stopped by, did not stay for the whole workout. Then our focus went to the NFL Draft. We’re going to revisit here in the near future. That’s how that all happened.”
In the event Tebow does sign with the Jaguars in the coming weeks, the Jaguars' will certainly be taking a leap. But their interest in Tebow alone tells us quite a few things about where the franchise is at when it comes to the tight end position. With this in mind, what does the Jaguars' interest in Tebow mean moving forward?
Merely considering signing Tebow is an indictment of how badly the Jaguars need help at tight end
One can't help but think the Jaguars wouldn't even entertain the idea of Tim Tebow at tight end if they had any established players in the room. The consideration of Tebow alone speaks volumes to the Jaguars' lack of depth and impact players at the position; there is no reason to believe Tebow can be an NFL tight end, yet there is still an argument to make that the Jaguars could at least be the one team in the NFL with a big enough need to bring up the idea of Tebow.
The Jaguars have already added multiple tight ends this offseason, signing veteran blocking tight end Chris Manhertz and drafting Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. But Manhertz has just 12 career catches over a seven-year NFL career, while Farrell was never highlighted as a receiver at Ohio State. Depth options like James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, and Ben Ellefson don't exactly move the needle, either.
Whether the Jaguars should give Tebow a legitimate look is a different question entirely, but there is little doubt as to why they are doing it: they are that desperate for any kind of reinforcements at tight end.
If Urban Meyer wants Tebow around the Jaguars' facility, why not add him to the staff instead of the roster?
When it comes to Tebow, there are a few things the general public at large and his followers alike can agree on. He is seen as a workout warrior, a good teammate, and a good locker room presence thanks to the kind of person he is. If Urban Meyer is so intent on adding Tebow to the Jaguars' roster, it likely has as much to do with these factors as it does with any of his actual athletic ability.
But if this is the case -- if Meyer wants to sign Tebow just to have his personality, presence, and work ethic in the building -- then the Jaguars are going about it the wrong way. There are lots of ways to add people to an NFL organization's infrastructure without signing them to a contract and allowing them to take an offseason roster spot. If Meyer thinks Tebow can add value to the Jaguars' thanks to his leadership, then adding him to the coaching or support staff would accomplish much more and save a valuable roster spot during the offseason and training camp for a rebuilding franchise.
Plus, Tebow just makes more sense in an off-field role than as a player. He hasn't been in the NFL in nearly a decade and hasn't played tight end since his early high school days. There was hardly a role for Tebow on the NFL field a decade ago, let alone in 2021. If the Jaguars think he brings value just by being Tebow, that isn't enough to warrant a roster spot.
The overall reactions to this move are both expected and justified
There have been countless arguments made that the Jaguars' courtship if Tebow isn't a big deal and that some in the national media have overreacted in a negative sense. With that said, I don't think the national reaction is unfair, and it certainly isn't surprising enough to poke holes at. And it isn't the media who is making it a big deal, either -- the Jaguars knew when they worked out Tebow what kind of celebrity power and attention he would bring.
Simply put, any other team giving Tebow this chance would be met with the same reaction. If Jaguars' head coach Urban Meyer wasn't close with Tebow since the former quarterback was in high school, it is highly unlikely any NFL team looks at him as a tight end, especially in 2021. Tebow is 33-years-old, has never played tight end in college or the NFL, and hasn't been in the NFL since 2012. At the end of the day, there are dozens of tight ends on the free agent market currently who are safer bets to contribute.
If any of the NFL's other 31 teams had this type of interest, there would be the same reaction from outsiders. There are more than enough reasons for this move to catch some criticism, even if it is one Meyer and the Jaguars think can help them in the short term.
Josh Oliver was a better option than Tim Tebow for Meyer's first year
There are few players who made impacts smaller than Josh Oliver for the Jaguars from 2019-2020. Oliver missed all of 2020 with a broken foot in training camp and only appeared in four games with three catches for 15 yards as a rookie. The Jaguars traded him in March to Baltimore for a conditional seventh-round selection in 2022 and Meyer himself admitted to not having much stock into Oliver's place on the roster. Oliver is a long shot to make an impact with the Ravens and in the NFL in general.
Even with all of this in mind, though, I can't help but think Oliver is still a significantly better gamble than Tebow. Neither is likely to hit their ceiling, but is it not more likely that a young and talented player stays healthy for a year than it is for a 33-year-old to learn one of the NFL's most difficult positions on the fly? Oliver is one of the worst draft picks in the franchise's history considering the lack of investment, but the Jaguars would have been better off sticking with the athletic natural tight end who couldn't stay healthy over a former quarterback who hasn't been in the NFL in eight years.