The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to make offseason waves. This time they are reportedly expected to sign Tim Tebow; a former college and NFL quarterback who hasn't played in the league in eight years. And they're signing him as a tight end, a position he's never played.
Tebow played for Jaguars' Head Coach Urban Meyer whilst with the Florida Gators. The duo won two National Championships together and Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, the youngest to do so at the time.
Now the two will reportedly be reunited. Following the 2021 NFL Draft, Meyer confirmed his former QB had been given a tryout earlier in the offseason. With the draft now behind the franchise, and offseason workouts set to start in two weeks, the club will bring in Tebow as a tight end, a position at which they're currently decimated.
John Shipley, Kassidy Hill and Gus Logue of Jaguar Report examine the good, the bad and the ugly of the reported move.
Shipley: If anyone in football would have specific ideas for how to use Tebow at non-quarterback positions or roles, it is likely Urban Meyer. Meyer knows what Tebow offers on and off the field as well as anyone who Tebow has ever come across, and Meyer's utilization of Tebow as a dual-threat (albeit limited as a passer) set records during their run together at Florida. I don't think the Jaguars would sign Tebow to be a starter or even play more than a handful of snaps a game because of this reason as well. Meyer's plans of converting him to tight end may seem a bit far-fetched, but it doesn't appear Meyer envisions him as a complete answer at the tight end position or as anything more than a potential role player if he can make the roster. Tebow wouldn't add value to most NFL offenses, but Meyer is likely one of the few coaches who could get something out of him, or at least have a cohesive plan for his usage.
Logue: Jacksonville’s offensive coaches will be able to draw up red zone, short-yardage and trick plays as much as their imagination will allow. Most importantly, the Jaguars will have Trevor Lawrence, who’s 78.2% adjusted red zone accuracy is easily the best rate among each of the past two draft classes (per NBC Edge’s Derrik Klassen), but the Jaguars will also enjoy strong play from James Robinson, D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones; versatility from Travis Etienne, Laviska Shenault and Philip Dorsett; and now a true wildcard in Tim Tebow. To expect the 33-year-old Tebow to make a significant contribution as a tight end, let alone to play a majority of snaps, is fool’s gold- but assuming he actually makes the 53-man roster, it will be exciting to see how Meyer and the rest of the staff deploys the newest offensive weapon in town with double passes, quadruple options, and who knows what else.
Hill: Tebow hasn’t played in a NFL game in eight years so there’s so much we don’t know…but that also means there’s so much we don’t know. Tebow—like many former passers who were adamant they could translate their game to the NFL only to find out the hard way it’s not as easy as it looks—was adamant about remaining a quarterback during his first NFL stint (and his second). So we’ve never seen him play tight end. He might be good. He’s 33-years old, which is a concern, but he’s also 6-3 and 250 pounds of seemingly still pure muscle and has always proven capable of taking a hit. His route tree is going to be incredibly limited meaning he’ll likely only be used in red-zone situations where he can rely more on pure physicality, but he has the build and potential to be efficient there. Any time he’s on the field, the defense will have to respect the double-pass or pitch option, allowing for Trevor Lawrence to exploit open areas. Of course, this is all dependent on Tebow actually making the 53-man roster.
Shipley: The bad is that the Jaguars' tight end room is in such dire shape that the team has to even consider this option. Perhaps Meyer would have still wanted to give Tebow yet another shot in the NFL even in the event the Jaguars landed a top tight end target this offseason, but this seems a bit more doubtful. Instead, the Jaguars not landing any notable receivers this offseason such as Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, or a pass-catching rookie tight end has led the Jaguars to a tight end room with two blockers, a depth-level receiving tight end, a former undrafted free agent with one career catch, and a former sixth-round pick with no career catches. If the Jaguars are considering a 33-year-old who has never played the position and hasn't even been in an NFL game since 2012 ... then the tight end room is in as bad of shape as any tight end room has been.
Logue: The tight end room will certainly be more entertaining once Tebow officially signs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be improved. It’s one thing for Meyer to give a one-year contract to his former collegiate player, but it’d be another for him to force snaps just for the sake of having a previous relationship with Tebow. Giving Tebow substantial playing time over younger and/or more talented players would be a very cringy mistake, though Meyer ought to know that going into the signing.
Hill: To this point, the Jaguars have cut their most experienced tight end, not signed the best free agents at the position and drafted a blocking tight end during the NFL Draft. So there seems to be little harm in at least giving Tebow a shot. But since we’ve recently learned that this tryout happened weeks ago and has been a possibility for a while now, one has to wonder if Meyer and staff knew this was a backup plan the whole time. And given Meyer’s affinity for Tebow, we then must ask, was this what he wanted the whole time? All of that to say, the bad here could be the coaching staff trying to shoehorn someone into the roster for off the field benefits, to the detriment of said roster. Tebow hasn’t played in eight years. He’s never played tight end. Meyer is in the midst of building a team and changing a culture and in the midst of that he’s going to teach someone at a valuable position how to play said position? In the span of months? If there was an experienced and dependable tight end already on the roster, this experiment would incur a lot less risk. But that’s not the case. And that’s bad.
Shipley: The ugly is that this takes away credibility from Urban Meyer before he steps onto a sideline for his first game. No matter what the argument is for Tebow, the sheer truth is there are better arguments as to why the Jaguars shouldn't entertain this. Active players throughout the NFL are already lambasting the move for a reason -- this isn't a signing that would be as endearing to the people who truly do the work on Sundays as it would be to Tebow fans. If a team is normally the only team who would make a move, it is typically a bad idea -- that is the case with Tebow. Meyer putting some of his credibility inside NFL circles throughout the league on the line for Tebow is a bit jarring.
Logue: Worst-case scenario would be if Tebow clearly has a poor training camp and doesn’t seem fit for the move to tight end, but Meyer gives him a roster spot anyway, and then after disgruntlement from fans and media Meyer cuts him after all. A similar move already happened this offseason, when Jacksonville announced that Chris Doyle (who was accused of racist mistreatment as Iowa’s head strength and conditioning coach) would be joining the coaching staff but then took it back after strong backlash. The signing of Tebow solidifies the fact that Meyer has total control of team personnel, but if this situation gets botched too, maybe there should be more checks and balances in place.
Hill: While Tebow’s ability to play tight end might be in question, his ability to inspire and lead has always been unquestionable. But this is a new ball game for the 33-year old. He’s stepping in to a locker room with professionals who know of him only what they’ve seen on TV. He’ll earn their trust—it’s his way—but it will take time, and will greatly depend on him actually being good enough to make the roster. Until that happens, guys will be skeptical of what move Meyer is trying to pull, thus making his efforts to win the roster over that much more difficult.
If Tebow isn’t good enough to make the roster, it’ll be seen as a waste of time and purely for PR. If he isn’t good enough to make the roster but still does, Meyer loses credibility, and for that matter, probably some of the unilateral control he’s seemingly been given over the roster. The only scenario that doesn’t fracture the locker room is Tebow proving to be a surprisingly efficient tight end, leading to the roster realizing they can trust moves Meyer makes. But until then, it will be met with understandable skepticism by fans and rivals and pundits and perhaps scariest of all, the locker room.