Tim Tebow, who made the Broncos arguably the biggest NFL story in 2011, will take his athleticism and fervent followers to the New York Jets, even though he wanted to play in Florida.
The Broncos traded their star quarterback with the polarizing skill set, and a seventh-round draft pick, to the New York Jets in exchange for a fourth- and a sixth-round pick, according to an NFL source.
The trade gives the Broncos seven picks in the seven-round 2012 NFL Draft — one in the first, second and third rounds; two in the fourth round, one in the fifth, one in the sixth and none in the seventh.
Earlier Wednesday, the trade hit a snag and Jacksonville entered as a possible destination for Tebow. But New York won out in the end.
The Broncos and Jets will split the difference on advance salary in Tebow’s contract, with New York reimbursing Denver $2.53 million, according to an NFL source.
That money had caused the Jets some pause earlier in the day. They learned about the contract clause — which would have required New York to pay Denver more than $5 million — after annoucing the trade.
The trade also sends the circus that was Tebowmania to a city big enough to handle it.
Perhaps more than any player since former Jets quarterback Joe Namath in the rebellious late-1960s, Tebow is an NFL star who crossed over to become a cultural icon.
With Namath, the popularity was about sex appeal. He helped bring the female audience to the NFL. With Tebow, it’s about his strong Christian convictions, All-American persona — and ability to pull off remarkable comeback victories despite pronounced flaws as a passer.
The interest in the Jets was not a surprise. Jets’ coach Rex Ryan and Tebow have the same agent in Jimmy Sexton. Ryan’s offense in 2011 also seemed to badly miss Wildcat weapon Brad Smith, who became a free agent after the 2010 season and signed with Buffalo.
And Ryan wound up needing paramedic treatment after Tebow beat his Jets, 17-13 with a 95 1/2-yard drive that culminated with the quarterback busting through a blitz sack of safety Erik Smith and running in for a 20-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining.
Afterwards, an emergency medical service (EMS) unit from the Denver Fire Department was sent to Harry B. Combs Parkway near the Denver International Airport where the Jets’ charter plane was preparing to take off.