Monday's NFL: Tim Tebow-Urban Meyer reunion on verge of becoming official
Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer are apparently getting back together, this time in the NFL.
The former Florida star and 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is expected to team up with his college coach by signing a one-year contract to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL Network reported Monday.
The league-owned network said the deal "could be official in the next week or so."
The 33-year-old Tebow would be returning to the NFL after four years (2016-19) in the New York Mets’ organization and he’d be playing for Meyer for the first time since his senior year in 2009.
This reunion would come with a twist, though.
Tebow would be joining the Jaguars as a tight end. He switched positions after retiring from baseball in February. He worked out for Jacksonville a week later.
Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke are seemingly waiting until after this weekend's rookie minicamp to get the deal done.
Tebow, who grew up in Jacksonville, could fill a huge hole with his hometown team. The Jaguars decided not to pick up a team option in veteran Tyler Eifert’s contract and traded oft-injured 2019 draft pick Josh Oliver to Baltimore. They signed run-blocking specialist Chris Manhertz in free agency, brought back James O’Shaughnessy and drafted Ohio State’s Luke Farrell in the fifth round.
Those were considered minor moves after Meyer vowed to completely revamp the position group. Tebow, at the very least, would provide a splash.
“That will be interesting to see how that contributes to us on offense,” Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan said recently. “Obviously Urban knows Tim really well, and Tim’s got a great history of winning. Urban really believes he can help us, and I think it makes a lot of sense. And it’s a position where we need to get better.”
But how much can a guy on the wrong side of 30 who’s never played the position bring to the team? Tebow’s value could mean as much off the field as on it.
Meyer has said repeatedly that signing players who already know his methodology would be helpful in Year 1. Tebow would become the sixth guy on Jacksonville's roster who previously played for Meyer, joining Farrell, running back Carlos Hyde, guard Andrew Norwell, defensive end Lerentee McCray and defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton.
Tebow played quarterback for Meyer between 2006 and 2009, helping the Gators win two national championships while becoming one of the most recognizable — and polarizing — athletes in college sports.
He was a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2010, but his long windup led to a short NFL career. He spent time with the Broncos, the New York Jets, New England and Philadelphia. His last NFL game came with the Jets in 2012.
They cut him in April 2013, three months after then-Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell famously said he wouldn’t sign Tebow “even if he’s released.”
Tebow has received rock-star media coverage at every NFL stop and might get as much attention in Jacksonville as franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the top pick in the 2021 draft.
Tebow won a playoff game with Denver in 2012, but never developed into a consistent NFL starter. He declined several suggested moves to tight end — he even asked Meyer for guidance — and then ended up switching sports and joining the Mets.
“When he was a quarterback in the NFL, that was a big topic,” Meyer said at the end of the draft. “I was so busy I couldn’t give him the time. ‘What do you think? What do you think?’ And I didn’t know. I was too busy to even think it through.
“I know playing a position in the NFL without (experience), that’s a long shot. This was years ago.”
But when Tebow asked about an NFL comeback in February, Meyer invited him to the facility for a workout. Meyer made it clear he didn’t feel like he owed Tebow anything, either.
“I have one job and that is to win games with the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Meyer said. “If Tim Tebow or Travis Etienne can help us win, then that’s my job to get them ready to go play.”
Former Central Michigan star signs in Indy
When the Indianapolis Colts didn’t select a left tackle in the NFL draft, they started shopping for veterans.
On Monday, they may have found a solution.
The Colts filled their most glaring need by signing free agent and Central Michigan product Eric Fisher, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. They requested anonymity because the Colts have not officially announced the move. Terms of the deal were not immediately available.
If the two-time Pro Bowler returns quickly from the torn left Achilles tendon he suffered in January, he could be the perfect blindside protector as new quarterback Carson Wentz tries to revive his career. Wentz was sacked a league-high 50 times last season despite playing only 12 games.
Indy had been looking to replace longtime starter Anthony Castonzo, who announced his retirement in January.
Most expected general manager Chris Ballard to add an offensive lineman early in free agency or the draft. While he did sign two free agents with starting experience — Sam Tevi and Julien Davenport — in March, Ballard was looking for another on draft weekend.
But after taking defensive linemen with their first two picks, the Colts missed out on some of the options who were selected in Rounds 4 and 5 before the Colts could pick.
“We’re not in a panic mode and we believe if we were playing a couple weeks from now we would have an outstanding offensive line with Tevi,” team owner Jim Irsay said during the draft. “Again, September is still a long way away. There are a lot of possibilities and things that could come up between now and then and we’ll look at all the possibilities between now and then.”
Ballard started mapping out Plan B last week. He brought in the longtime anchor of the Chiefs offensive line, someone he already knew from their five seasons together in Kansas City.
There’s little doubt Fisher fits nicely next to three-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson on a line that returns four starters for the third consecutive season.
The uncertainty is whether Fisher will be ready by opening day.
Kansas City released Fisher in March even though general manager Brett Veach told reporters he expected Fisher would be back by mid-August. If he returns that soon, the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Fisher would likely be the starter.
Kansas City took Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He played right tackle as a rookie before the Chiefs moved him back to the left side in 2014. Fisher has started 113 of 117 games over the past eight seasons.
And his impact was never more apparent when the injury kept him out of the Super Bowl. Without Fisher, Chiefs quarterback Partick Mahomes was under constant duress and the Chiefs usually dynamic offense sputtered in a 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay.
Ballard is hoping a healthy Fisher will help Wentz stay upright, too.
“Any time you have a player like Anthony Castonzo retire, it’s a need,” Ballard said last week. “We signed some guys we think are pretty good football players. How many true left tackles were in the draft? I don’t have that number with me. But if you’re going to draft a guy that high and you’re drafting him to play left tackle, you want to do it knowing he’ll play that (position) his whole career.”
Whop! ESPN announces extension for Berman on 66th birthday
Chris Berman will continue to host “NFL PrimeTime” after agreeing to a new contract with ESPN.
The multiyear agreement was announced on Berman's 66th birthday Monday.
“We've been working on it for awhile, and this was the perfect time to do it,” Berman said during a telephone interview. “ESPN has been almost two-thirds of my life. I'm honored that what I do still works.”
Berman has been an integral part of ESPN throughout its history after joining the network a month after its launch in September 1979. Besides being one of the original “SportsCenter” anchors, he has been a key part of the network's NFL and baseball coverage.
He hosted “NFL PrimeTime” with Tom Jackson from 1987 to 2005 on ESPN and then starting again in 2019 when it returned on the ESPN+ streaming service. Berman — who also hosted “NFL Countdown” from 1985 to 2016 — teamed up with Booger McFarland for “PrimeTime” last year when Jackson could not travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Berman approached ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro when ESPN+ started about the possibility of reviving “PrimeTime.” Berman said seeing the success of “PrimeTime” on the streaming service has mirrored watching the growth of ESPN.
“The fact that I will get to do it again this season is something I have enjoyed the most,” he said. “I love being able to help build another entity with it this time being in the streaming world.”
Berman said it remains to be determined who will join him on “PrimeTime” during the upcoming season.
Berman was the 2010 recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award and has been the master of ceremonies for the Hall's induction ceremony since 1999.
“Quite simply, Chris Berman has personified ESPN’s success for more than four decades,” Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president and executive editor, said in a statement. “Fans respond to his authentic love of sports, his ability to savor and capture the big moments, and his on-air style that reminds us how live games can truly be equal parts essential and fun. We are delighted Boomer’s magical ride at ESPN will continue for years to come.”