Someone will gamble on Tebow at QB

It seems that the extremist views on quarterback Tim Tebow are starting to settle into some type of healthy medium. Now the question is whether Tebow, who faces an important workout at the University of Florida’s pro day on March 17, will settle into a comfortable area of the NFL draft for his best chance of success.

Tebow didn't throw during the combine last month.
(Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

For months, the view of Tebow has alternated between the Tebowites and the nonbelievers. Tebow’s supporters, fueled by his on-field success and clean-cut personality, see the former Gators star as faultless, a sure first-rounder in the draft. Others see him never succeeding in the NFL, or at least having to play another position.

One thing certainly working in his favor: In today’s NFL, quarterbacks are only slightly less important to a team’s success than air and water.

Overstatement? Only a little. Take a good look around the league these days and you’ll realize that the gap between those teams which have great quarterbacks and those in need is like a chasm in Bryce Canyon.

Last year’s playoffs featured one of the greatest collections of passers you’ll ever see. The NFC had future Hall of Famer (and I don’t use Hall of Fame lightly) Brett Favre(notes); Kurt Warner(notes) (another guy who will elicit serious Hall discussion); Drew Brees(notes); Aaron Rodgers(notes); Donovan McNabb(notes) and Tony Romo(notes). That’s six Pro Bowlers.

The AFC playoffs featured two quarterbacks (Peyton Manning(notes) and Tom Brady(notes)) who have pretty much punched their ticket to Canton already. The other four quarterbacks (Carson Palmer(notes), Joe Flacco(notes), Mark Sanchez(notes) and Philip Rivers(notes)) are all former first-round picks. Four of the six have made the Pro Bowl.

If there’s any position worth gambling on, it’s quarterback … perhaps even if there’s a great debate as to whether one is fully equipped to play the role professionally.

Tebow has been talked about and analyzed more than any player in next month’s draft. That’s a stunning statement in light of the fact that he might not be among the top three or four quarterbacks available. But Tebow is a lightning rod of staggering proportion because of his on-field performance and off-field persona.

There are hard-core football realists who see Tebow as a run-first quarterback with a terrible throwing motion, a player who has never learned to read a defense. They see him as, at best, a fifth-round draft pick. There are even some scouts who think Tebow will never be able to fix his throwing motion. There are some people who think he should try to be a tight end or H-back rather than try his arm as a passer.

Those are fair points, but they ignore other realities – such as the fact that Tebow has the work ethic and mental toughness to do everything in his power to succeed. That factor must be taken seriously. On top of that, Tebow is an obviously talented athlete. If you’re willing to bet on anyone transforming themselves into a good player, Tebow is worth the gamble.

As one league executive put it during the NFL scouting combine: “We sat here [four] years ago and talked about how Vince Young(notes) could or couldn’t play in the NFL, and Tebow isn’t that much different. He’s not as fast as [Young], but he’s still pretty fast … a bunch of people said Vince’s throwing motion was terrible, but Tebow’s is probably a little better than that. Really, I don’t know why all these people think there’s no way you could even take a chance on the guy.”

Once you strip away all the talk – including the silly notion that his stance on abortion is going to somehow alienate teammates or fans – the bottom line is that he’s a good football player with some strong positives and some strong negatives who happens to play at a premium position.

He will be drafted accordingly.

QUICK SLANTS

Marshall, Jackson or Austin?

The Seattle Seahawks’ reported interest in Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) brings up an interesting question: Of Marshall and fellow restricted free-agent receivers Vincent Jackson(notes) and Miles Austin(notes), who is the best player to pursue?

The advantage with Marshall is that he has the lowest tag, requiring that a team give up a first-round pick only (only?) to Denver if the Broncos don’t match the offer and the other team signs him.

In the case of both Jackson and Austin, the cost would be first- and third-round picks. That’s a huge gap. Furthermore, with all of Marshall’s baggage (the testimony from the Darrent Williams(notes) trial makes Marshall look more irresponsible than ever), it’s likely that the Broncos might give him up for less.

Conventional wisdom suggests teams would go after Jackson first, even though he is dealing with his second DUI case. Jackson has both the size and the speed to be dominant for a long time. He has been the most effective deep threat in the league over the past two seasons and has taken significant steps forward during that time.

Austin, who has never been in trouble, was terrific during the second half of last season but has really only been great for about half a season. While it’s hard to see a guy with that type of physical ability regressing anytime soon, there is still some doubt.

All of that said, neither Jackson nor Austin is likely to get away from their teams unless someone applies a “poison pill” to the contract. That makes Marshall the most available guy, even if he’s not the most desirable.

Revis negotiations

The agents for cornerback Darrelle Revis(notes) and New York Jets management have acknowledged discussing a long-term contract after his stellar performance last season. The question is: At what price?

Revis is a two-time Pro Bowler.
(Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Revis has three years left on his original contract after being selected in the first round in 2007. He will make $21 million over that time: $1 million this year, $5 million in 2011 and $15 million in 2012.

The key to any future contract hinges on that final year, a cleverly designed bit of contract work by agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod. If Revis remains healthy and the NFL brings back a salary cap as part of the next collective bargaining agreement, his franchise-tag numbers based on the current scale would be at least $18 million in 2013 and $21.6 million in 2014.

That’s a total of $60.6 million over five years if Revis does nothing but play well. So if the Jets are expecting to buy out a couple of years at the end of his deal, they’ll need to come closer to that figure than not.

This and that

Washington Redskins executive Bruce Allen had some interesting comments about how franchise owner Dan Snyder was on board with the team’s strategy to sit out the high end of free agency. The Redskins made an offer to defensive end Julius Peppers(notes) but bowed out after Chicago outbid the field, a very un-Snyder-like move for Washington. Allen was part of the reason for the conservative approach. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that approach, Allen is also the guy who in 2007, while serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager, discouraged the Bucs from trading up from No. 4 overall to No. 2 for a shot at wide receiver Calvin Johnson(notes). Allen talked his way out of the trade even though head coach Jon Gruden badly wanted Johnson. Instead, the Bucs picked defensive end Gaines Adams(notes). God rest Adams’ soul, but that wasn’t the wisest move by Allen.

Speaking of draft trades that never happened but should have, the Jacksonville Jaguars are still paying for their decision not to trade a second-round pick in 2008 to the Miami Dolphins for Jason Taylor(notes). Instead, the Jaguars used the 21st pick of that round to take Quentin Groves(notes), who may be nothing more than a situational player – if the Jags are lucky. Groves’ failure is a big reason why the Jags had to sign veteran free agent Aaron Kampman(notes) last week.

Longtime reader “DanOfHollywood” (by way of both the California and Florida cities) made a wonderful point about how former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby(notes) (five years, $43 million) and safety Antrel Rolle(notes) (five years, $37 million) were able to cash in with the biggest contracts of this offseason at their positions. In fact, Rolle’s deal was the richest ever for a safety in league history. Not bad for two guys off a team that allowed 90 points combined in two playoff games.

Speaking of those contracts, some NFL observers believe the numbers have much to do with the lack of a salary cap this year. That’s not really the case. Both the Dansby and Rolle deals, along with the reported six-year, $91.5 million deal signed by defensive end Julius Peppers in Chicago, are in line with the normal growth of contracts even in the capped years. In other words, these contracts likely would have happened regardless of a cap, and none of the three teams would be over the cap with those deals.

Congrats to the Baltimore Ravens for nabbing wide receiver Anquan Boldin(notes) and a fifth-round draft pick from Arizona for third- and fourth-round picks. The interesting part of the deal is that the Cardinals could have kept Boldin for another year, let him go as a free agent in 2011 and then likely received a third-round compensatory pick in return. Sure, the Cardinals got an extra pick by making the deal now and got the picks earlier, but it would have been interesting to see how Boldin would have helped the team this year as it attempts another transition at quarterback.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Mar 10, 2010