With the signing of Peyton Manning imminent, the departure of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has become a foregone conclusion.
But according to one of the NFL’s most respected executives, Tebow’s potential trade value is far more uncertain.
“I think there are three levels,” former Indianapolis Colts president and general manager Bill Polian told Gil Brandt and me on our Sirius XM NFL Radio show on Monday. “The first level is if someone believes he can be a starting quarterback and/or a gate attraction. If that’s the case, you’re probably looking at a third (-round draft pick) or a little bit better.
“If people believe he has the chance to be a situational player or backup quarterback, you’re talking about maybe a fifth being the highest you could possibly get depending on how many suitors there were. It could go all the way down to a seventh. And if you’re talking about people saying, ‘Well, he’s a curiosity. I’d like to bring him to camp to see if we can create a special offense for him and maybe make him the second/third quarterback, but we don’t think he’ll ever become a true bona fide backup,’ then you’re talking no value at all. Maybe a conditional seventh-round draft choice.”
As for his own personal evaluation, Polian believes Tebow has the potential to become a quality backup who also can contribute as a situational player in special packages. Polian also gave Tebow a grade of “A++” for the intangibles that helped him lead Denver into the second round of last season’s playoffs despite a completion percentage of 46.5 percent.
Polian, though, added that Tebow must “clean up his (throwing) release” for any chance of becoming a full-time NFL starter.
“His release is too long to be considered a natural and workable release in the National Football League,” Polian said. “It gives the free safety and linebackers too much of a jump on his throws.”
Polian said that was especially apparent in Denver’s 45-10 playoff loss to New England in January. Tebow completed only nine of 26 passes for 136 yards and was sacked five times.
“The New England secondary and linebackers were keying the second he took his hand off the ball,” Polian said. “They were flying to the receiver he looked at and essentially negated the passing game.
“In my experience, I have never seen a quarterback who had an elongated delivery such as Tim does change. The only one I’ve ever seen have success was Kerry Collins and he had a rocket for an arm and was very accurate. Tim has a good arm, but it’s not a rocket and he’s not very accurate.”
The Broncos are expected to trade Tebow for a variety of reasons. His unconventional skill set doesn’t fit the kind of up-tempo pro-style offense Denver is expected to install for Manning. And since Tebow is such a polarizing figure among Broncos fans, Polian said having him and Manning on the same roster would create the kind of off-field distraction that teams try to avoid because of the potential trickle-down effect on each player and the rest of the roster.
“[Broncos executive vice president] John Elway has to answer that question: Does he feel the value in keeping Tim Tebow as a specialized player equals the downside of having this media circus that neither player would try to create?” Polian said. “I don’t doubt Tim Tebow would be a great teammate and would learn a heck of a lot from Peyton Manning.”
Manning chose the Broncos as his new team on Monday after 12 days of being courted by interested teams. Denver is expected to look at signing some of his former Colts teammates in hopes of creating the same kind of offensive success that helped Manning win a Super Bowl and lead Indianapolis to 10 other playoff appearances in 14 seasons.
The Denver Post reported that the Broncos were expected to have strong interest in tight end Dallas Clark, who was recently released in a Colts purge of veteran talent. But Polian, who ran the Colts for all 14 seasons that Manning was with the franchise before his January firing, thinks Denver should take a close look at Clark’s backup in Indianapolis. Jacob Tamme, who caught 67 passes in 2010 when starting eight games in place of the injured Clark, is an unrestricted free agent who isn’t expected to re-sign with the Colts.
“[The Broncos] do need a blocking tight end and that’s not Jacob’s strong suit, but he’s a pro’s pro and a young guy (at 27),” said Polian, who selected Tamme in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. “He’s got a lot of football ahead of him.”
Polian also said ex-Colts center Jeff Saturday “would be a good fit. They have a young center (J.D. Walton) who would benefit by learning from Jeff for a year.”
The Tennessean reported that Saturday will visit Tuesday with Tennessee. Profootballtalk.com first reported that Saturday met Monday with Green Bay.
Tennessee and San Francisco were the other two finalists for Manning with Arizona and Miami both told they were out of the running last week. Polian said he thought Manning would sign with an AFC team because he is familiar with the conference and didn’t want regular matchups against the New York Giants, which field his brother Eli as their starting quarterback. The Broncos and Giants aren’t scheduled to play in the 2012 regular season. Denver is slated to play against New York in 2013.
“[Peyton] really dislikes playing against his brother. That’s not something that sits well with anyone in the family,” said Polian, who made Manning the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft. “As to Denver versus Tennessee, that was a stone toss-up. I couldn’t tell you that I could have made that decision one way or the other.
“I was handicapping AFC, but I can’t tell you that I would have gotten Denver right on that one. Talking to him rather recently, I don’t think he knew until just recently.”