COMMENTARY | The crumbling of the tight end position for the New England Patriots has led to speculation the team should convert quarterback Tim Tebow as a replacement. Making such a snap decision would be a mistake, as his best value will come from remaining at his original position and being developed as a long-term investment.
Over the past three seasons, New England tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 362 receptions, 4,619 yards, 56 receiving touchdowns and three Pro Bowl appearances. To call them a major part of the team's offense would be an understatement.
Unfortunately, the duo has been irrevocably splintered.
Gronkowski underwent multiple offseason surgeries on his arm and back, which will cause him to open training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. His availability for the regular season is still unknown.
Hernandez has played his last game for New England. He has been the focus of investigations into several violent incidents this offseason, including a homicide. Following his recent arrest for that murder, the Patriots officially cut ties with the troubled player by releasing him from their roster.
The tight end uncertainty has caused a general clambering for Tebow to take up the position, but the smartest move is the Patriots putting all their resources into developing him at quarterback.
After spending three uneven years with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, the 25-year-old Tebow latched on with New England after signing a two-year, $1.38 million free-agent deal earlier this offseason.
He has a reputation as a winner and great leader (two college national championships with the University of Florida and an 8-6 record as an NFL starter). Unfortunately, he has struggled with his accuracy (47.9 percent career completion percentage) and ability to manage an effective passing game (career average of 143.8 passing yards per start).
With such a relatively cheap contract, it's worth seeing if Tebow's rough edges can be smoothed out and if he can be made into a bonafide NFL quarterback.
ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss reported the Patriots plan to keep Tebow at his natural position. If all goes well, that's what could pay off the most.
New England starting quarterback Tom Brady is a future Hall of Famer. While he is still at the top of his game, he is about turn 36 and won't be able to play forever. Having him mentor the talented but flawed Tebow on the cheap is simply a smart business decision.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, who is a former scout and college quarterback, explained to The Boston Globe's Ben Volin how the Patriots could benefit from developing Tebow as a signal caller. "This guy needs three things. He needs to sit, he needs to learn, and he needs to develop, and the Patriots can help him accomplish those things. Take this year, stay out of the limelight, work hard, learn what you can from Brady, don't worry about being put on the football field, and then let the storm die down a little bit."
There are other compelling reasons to keep Tebow away from tight end.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the Broncos' head coach when they traded up to take Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft. His previous experience and comfort with the quarterback could be a solid base to aid his potential development.
Finally, playing tight end is hard. It would be a tall task for any player to step in handle the position effectively after just a few months of practice, even for an athletic player like Tebow.
Tight ends must be versatile and able to block for both running and passing plays. In New England, they are also lined up all over the field as anything from deeper threats to release valves for Brady under the coverage.
Expecting Tebow to master these skills to the point where he would be a better option that the other tight ends already on the roster is unrealistic and foolish.
There are no guarantees Tebow will even make the roster out of training camp. The best decision is to keep him at his familiar position of quarterback and treat him as an investment. Giving him a redshirt year to learn and develop is a better option than acquiescing to pressure to get him on the field immediately as a tight end.
Having Tebow on the team is a luxury. The smart play is helping him get better at his accustomed position, not forcing him into an unfamiliar role because of panic.
In addition to the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports. He also produces his ownblog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter @historianandrew
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Tim Tebow
- New England Patriots
- New England