(Reuters) - Tim Tebow was handed another chance in the National Football League on Tuesday when the New England Patriots signed the quarterback to an undisclosed deal.
The Patriots did not reveal the terms of the contract but it was expected Tebow would be the team’s third-choice passer, behind starting quarterback Tom Brady and his back-up Ryan Mallett.
Media reports suggested Tebow had signed a two year contract with no guaranteed payments, making the move risk-free for New England.
A polarizing figure, Tebow’s brief NFL career appeared to be in jeopardy after he was traded by the Denver Broncos then released by the New York Jets in April.
“Anything we do is what we feel is in the best interest of the team,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“Tim is a talented player that’s smart and works hard, so we’ll see how it goes,” added Belichick who gave short shrift to follow up questions on the player.
By joining the Patriots, Tebow, 25, will reunite with his former coach Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator at New England.
McDaniels had been head coach at the Broncos when Tebow, a former College football star who won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, was drafted as a first-round pick from the University of Florida.
When he finally got his start in the NFL, Tebow took the Broncos on an improbable run to the 2011 playoffs, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers before losing to the Patriots, despite criticism and reservations about his ability as a passer.
He also quickly become a household name, with his popularity going well beyond the NFL. Deeply religious and with a clean-cut image, he became a magnet for sponsors, signing a range of massive endorsement deals which earned him an estimated $4 million a year.
Tebow’s jerseys were among the biggest sellers in the NFL and his habit of going down on one knee in prayer, became known as “Tebowing.”
In early 2012, the Broncos signed future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning after he had become a free agent, and traded Tebow to the Jets.
The Jets said they planned to use Tebow on their special teams and ‘wildcat’ plays, but the experiment was rarely tried and he spent most of each game stuck on the bench with the Jets eventually releasing him after missing the playoffs.
The Patriots and the Jets face each other twice each season in the AFC East division.
Critics of Tebow as a player have questioned whether he will ever have the passing accuracy needed to make it in the pro game but he has worked intensely on his technique during the off-season at IMG’s academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Chris Weinke, who was Tebow’s passing tutor during those sessions says the quarterback is a much improved player.
“I made an adjustment to his lower half and invariably that’s where the quickness came from,” Weinke, a former NFL quarterback, told USA Today.
”What I saw was, when his feet were in good position, he was throwing the ball with great accuracy, great velocity. And the ball was coming out much quicker.
”He’s proven he can win at that position. He has had great success. He does things the right way and has a guy in Tom who is one of the elite quarterbacks to ever play the game that he’ll be able to spend time with every day.
“The things we worked on down here are going to pay dividends in New England.”
Reporting By Simon Evans in Miami