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Tim Tebow has had mediocre spells at the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets. Wade Payne / AP Photo
Tim Tebow has had mediocre spells at the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets. Wade Payne / AP Photo

NFL: Tim Tebow close to signing with New England Patriots

Celebrated quarterback, who is without a gig since being relieved by the New York Jets, has another chance to keep his playing career alive.

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts // A flop on Broadway, Tim Tebow is getting an audition in Beantown.

Whether he will perform well enough to make it to training camp with the New England Patriots next month is uncertain. At least he has a chance to prolong an NFL career that seemed at a dead end after he was released by the New York Jets in April.

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday that the quarterback would join the Patriots for the start of their three-day mini-camp on Tuesday and sign with the team, pending a medical exam. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

ESPN first reported that Tebow would sign with the Patriots.

Asked if Tebow had signed, Patriots spokesman Stacey James said Monday, "I do not anticipate any additional transactions to announce tonight."

Tebow would find himself in a much different, and almost certainly more comfortable, situation than he endured with the Jets, who rarely used him after signing him to great fanfare.

There is no chance that Tebow might supplant the starter, Tom Brady, as there was in New York, where Mark Sanchez was on shaky ground and eventually was benched last season for Greg McElroy.

The media frenzy will not be as intense with coach Bill Belichick's bland news conferences, compared with Jets coach Rex Ryan's colorful sessions, and Belichick's firm grip on which players are allowed to speak with reporters and what they can say.

And Tebow's expectations may have been lowered after he was let go by Denver and New York. The Broncos traded him after the 2012 season and the Jets released him less than 14 months later.

"I think they'll take their time developing him," said former Jets and Patriots offensive lineman Damien Woody, now an ESPN analyst. "The Patriots are one of those teams that like to develop guys, and they'll even trade them if it works in their favour. In the more immediate future, having played in New England, I know one thing they value is versatility. They're going to try to use Tebow in positions where they feel they can maximise his talent."

That could be at tight end, a position the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Tebow has the size to play. There is uncertainty at that position after Rob Gronkowski had his fourth surgery on his broken left forearm on May 20 and is expected to undergo back surgery soon.

With the security provided by Brady, the Patriots have been patient in developing back-ups.

Matt Cassel threw just 39 passes in his first three seasons then played well after Brady suffered a season-ending left knee injury in the 2008 opener. After that season, the Patriots traded Cassel to Kansas City, where he signed a long-term deal and spent the past four years before being released last March and signing with Minnesota.

Brian Hoyer was Brady's seldom used back-up the next two seasons and Ryan Mallett filled that role the past two seasons and remains on the team. The Patriots released third-stringer Mike Kafka on Monday.

The presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also could help Tebow. McDaniels was Denver's head coach when he traded into the first round of the 2010 draft to take Tebow with the 25th pick.

But playing for McDaniels did not help another of his former players in Denver and then in St Louis, where McDaniels was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd played for McDaniels in both places, was second on the Patriots last season with 74 catches and then was released.

"If there's one guy in the NFL who's a fan of Tim Tebow or pulling for him, it would be Josh McDaniels," Woody said.

Belichick has been willing to gamble on players discarded by other teams. Some have succeeded, like wide receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss and running back Danny Woodhead. Some have not, including wide receiver Chad Johnson and defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth.

Tebow would need to show great improvement in his throwing mechanics and his ability to read defences and run the offence.

After winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships at Florida, Tebow threw just 82 passes in nine games, starting three, as a rookie. In 2011, he started 11 games, throwing for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions and taking the Broncos to a wild-card win over Pittsburgh before an AFC divisional loss to New England, 45-10 in Foxborough. He completed 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and five sacks in the rout, gaining only 13 yards on five rushes.

He was traded to New York after that season when Denver signed Peyton Manning. Tebow threw just eight passes for the Jets, completing six, ran 32 times for 102 yards and was used mostly to protect the punter.

Former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist sees the logic in the Patriots' decision to bring him to mini-camp.

"If you can find a club that's mature enough to handle it as an organisation, then you're going to find the right spot for him," Sundquist said. "What I mean by that is all the media mania and that sort of thing. The club says, 'Look, this is the reason we're bringing him on. We feel he can bring X, Y, Z and A, B, C to the table.' Explain it to Tim, explain it to the media, explain it to your fan base and explain it to your organisation."

That's the way the Patriots operate. Now Tebow must show he can fulfill the expectations they have for him.

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