NEW YORK (AP) — It's Tebow Time on Broadway.
The New York Jets acquired Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, bringing the polarizing quarterback to a team that just recently gave starter Mark Sanchez a three-year contract extension.
Now, just a few weeks after "Linsanity" swept the New York area and the rest of the NBA with the Knicks' sensational Jeremy Lin, it's time for "Tebowmania" at the Meadowlands.
Tebow, who became expendable when the Broncos signed Peyton Manning to a five-year deal Tuesday, is expected to complement Sanchez, who received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month. Rex Ryan's Jets also had pursued Manning before bowing out on the sweepstakes when there was little interest by the four-time NFL MVP.
Denver general manager Brian Xanders said the Broncos will receive fourth- and sixth-round draft picks, while New York gets a seventh-rounder — all in 2012.
The trade first was reported by Fox Sports.
Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs last season — along the way beating Sanchez and the Jets, who missed the postseason. But Denver executive John Elway believed Manning gave the team a better chance at winning a championship now.
For the Jets, Tebow is expected to add a versatile dimension to the offense, including running the team's wildcat package — something new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano enjoys using. He also provides a solid presence in a locker room that was strife with infighting last season — particularly between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
He also brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he's been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.
Several teams, including his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, reportedly were interested in acquiring Tebow.
The Jets had been relatively quiet in free agency, making a few moves that weren't exactly headline-makers, such as re-signing nose tackle Sione Pouha, kicker Nick Folk and linebacker Bryan Thomas, and signing safety LaRon Landry, wide receiver Chaz Schilens and backup quarterback Drew Stanton.
But, boy did they make an unlikely splash Wednesday by bringing in Tebow — a move that appeared to be a long shot, at best, as late as Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, Sanchez spoke highly of both Tebow and Manning on Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles.
"I think Peyton is going to do great, and I think Tim is going to do great no matter what happens," Sanchez said on "The Petros & Money Show." ''He can learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play or he moves on somewhere else and uses his skills at another ball club. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win. He knows how to impact players, so both guys are really in a good situation. It'll work out for both of them."
The effect Tebow's presence will have on Sanchez remains to be seen. The Jets appear to be committed to him financially as their starter for at least the next two years, but a restless fan base that got down on Sanchez as he struggled late last season could call for Tebow to take over at the first sign of trouble.
However, two minutes after the Jets posted about the trade on its Facebook page, there were 874 "likes," 366 comments and 247 shares. Most of the comments ran along the lines of: "I might cry" and "He is not welcome here, another terrible decision."
It appears, though, Tebow will be coming to New York to give the Jets an element on offense they lost after not re-signing wide receiver Brad Smith last offseason. Smith was often used as the team's wildcat quarterback, and had some success catching defenses off guard.
At least one teammate, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, took to Twitter on Wednesday night to express his confidence in Sanchez and the offense as structured before the deal.
"Y bring Tebow in when we need to bring in more Weapons for (at)Mark_Sanchez," Cromartie tweeted. "Let's build the team around him. We already signed to 3 year ext."
The Jets signed Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Greg McElroy, the team's seventh-round draft pick last year. General manager Mike Tannenbaum said Tuesday that he was confident in the trio, but added: "I'll give you my standard answer, which is you never know if other opportunities present themselves. We'll always look at it. That's the standard line there, but we feel good about Greg, Drew and Mark, and see where we go from there."
And that led them to Tebow.
The Jets saw up close what Tebow can do in the clutch as he led the Broncos on a 95-yard drive last November —including the winning 20-yard touchdown run in the final minute — to beat New York in a game that set off a series of incredible comebacks for the quarterback.
Sanchez, when asked about potentially using the wildcat more often, said he didn't particularly enjoy lining up as a wide receiver.
"I don't know if I'm very good split out like that," he told Fox Sports Radio with a laugh. "And I don't like coming off the field."
With Tebow in the mix, that seems inevitable, though, even if it's for a few snaps a game. Ryan has said he wants the Jets to get back to a "Ground-and-Pound" approach, which made them so successful during their runs to the AFC title games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The running game sputtered a bit last year, and Tebow — who's built like a fullback at 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds — ran for 660 yards while working as the Broncos' starting quarterback after replacing Kyle Orton after a 1-4 start.
Tebow's days were numbered in Denver when Manning chose the Broncos as his next destination. They are two entirely different quarterbacks and it made little sense to keep Tebow as a backup because the Broncos were going to have a vastly different offense under Manning, one of the most precise passers in league history.
Tebow's skills will fit much better behind Sanchez, who has many of the same traits.
Elway and Broncos coach John Fox called Tebow on Monday night to tell him it was possible he would be traded.
"I'm sure he was disappointed," Elway said Tuesday during the news conference to introduce Manning. "He didn't come out and say he was disappointed. I think it was a typical Tim Tebow response in the fact that he was very positive, and he said, 'Well, we're talking about Peyton Manning, and I understand exactly what you're doing.'"
Elway said he wanted to do right by Tebow, who took over a 1-4 team and led the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff win over Pittsburgh.
"It would be our goal to get him in the best situation possible for him to have success also," Elway said.
Tebow's base salaries for the next few seasons are very cap friendly: $1.942 million in 2012, $2.266 million in 2013 and $2.590 million in 2014 — something else that clearly appealed to the Jets.
Although the unorthodox QB energized the Broncos with a series of fourth-quarter comebacks last season, Tebow's messy mechanics and flawed footwork led to accuracy issues. And with his eagerness to run, he's hardly the prototypical pocket passer.
The Broncos changed their offense midseason to fit his unique skill set, dusting off the option offense, and it revitalized them as they soared to the top of the NFL rushing charts. But their passing game remained stuck in neutral as Tebow completed just 46 percent of his throws.
Tebow also will return to his backup quarterback role, which he filled before leading the Broncos to an 8-8 finish and the AFC West title. He also won a playoff game with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, beating Pittsburgh in overtime.
AP Sports Writers Arnie Stapleton and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.