Tim Tebow Must Emerge as Primary Backup in Order to Stay on Patriots Roster

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIJune 19, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JUNE 11: Tim Tebow #5 of the New England Patriots practices during minicamp at Gillette Stadium on June 11, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Newly signed New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow must prove that he’s better than Ryan Mallett during training camp and throughout the preseason, otherwise he could find himself jobless yet again.

Tebow had a tough time finding an organization that was willing to take a chance on him until the Patriots singed him to a two-year deal around a week ago. Tebow now has the opportunity to back up Tom Brady each week and potentially get some time on the field as well.

Tebow’s exact role has yet to be determined, but you can bet that he’s going to have to play remarkably well in order to make the final roster. The Patriots don’t really need to keep three quarterbacks on the team, so Tebow must make it his mission to secure the No. 2 job over Mallett.

Doug Kyed and Luke Hughes of NESN recently compiled a 53-man roster projection, and most of the focus was on Tebow. Kyed left Tebow off his roster and the quarterback just barely made the team for Hughes—and both kept Mallett. Both agree that it won’t be easy for Tebow to make the final squad.

Mallett, a third-round pick in 2011 by New England, has rarely taken the field since joining the Patriots. He only has four career pass attempts and eight rush attempts on his resume. Backing up Brady doesn’t require a lot unless he goes down with an injury—like when Matt Cassel took over when Brady hurt his knee in 2008.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said in a question-and-answer session in February that the Patriots have been impressed with Mallett during practice (Insider subscription required). Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England reported before the NFL draft that New England hadn’t had conversations about dealing the backup QB.

Now that the draft has come and gone, nearly every team knows whom its quarterback for the upcoming season will be. But that doesn’t mean that everything is going to go according to plan once Week 1 is set to start. Injuries happen all the time and sometimes derail quarterbacks for extended periods.

If Tebow plays well up until the regular season, and there’s a market for a player like Mallett, New England could feel comfortable trading him and keeping the former Florida Gator as the No. 2 guy.

Is that a stretch? Sure it is. But it’s certainly a possibility.

Regardless of what happens with other teams, Tebow needs to focus on playing well once the Patriots take the field. He isn’t going to have many opportunities to succeed before the Patriots need to make a final decision as to who will be on the final roster and who will be cut.

Last year, Mallett had 67 preseason pass attempts. Brian Hoyer—who was eventually cut—had 47. Brady threw the ball 27 times in two games. With Tebow fighting for a spot on the team, we should expect him to throw at least 40 preseason passes. If his mechanics are poor and he isn’t making plays, he’s gone.

Let me say this again: The Patriots don’t need three quarterbacks on the roster.

Tebow must play better than Mallett in order to have any shot at making the team. Keep in mind that he signed a deal that doesn’t include any guaranteed money (h/t Mike Garafolo of USA Today). The Patriots won’t owe him anything if they decide to let him go at the end of the preseason.

You don’t have to call it a quarterback competition, but Tebow will be looking to take Mallett’s backup job. His spot on the team is nonexistent if he doesn’t.