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Tim Tebow's trade value complicated by many intangible factors

DENVER -- The question is no longer whether or not the Broncos will try to trade Tim Tebow.

That's happening. Now, it's time to figure out just what Denver might be able to get for him. And in the end, it will be whether that return value makes it worthwhile for the Broncos to jettison Tebow in the wake of the club adding Peyton Manning to its quarterbacks room.

"His value could be good, it could be really bad, depending on what teams get involved," said one NFC personnel executive. "Intangibles are off the charts, but his talent? Who knows right now? ... He's a wild card. Thing is, you've got to run a certain kind of offense. And if you're not willing to do that, which a lot of teams aren't, then he has no value at all. At our place? There wouldn't be value, besides as a backup player, and with his intangibles. But I'm sure it's all over the board."

Over the past two weeks, it's become abundantly clear that, even in this golden age for quarterbacks, there just aren't enough to go around. The Manning Chase has left the 49ers without a starter -- unless Colin Kaepernick is farther along than the rest of us know -- and vying for Alex Smith's services against the Dolphins. One of those teams, likely Miami, gets left at the altar.

Unfortunately for Tebow, the fact that teams need players at his position doesn't necessarily equal demand for his services.

The fundamental problem is that whichever team takes on Tebow will have to overhaul its offense -- just like what Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did in 2011 -- if the plan is indeed to start him.

"You gotta remove pride, remove your ego, and understand this player has a very specific skill set that's outside the box, and outside conventional NFL wisdom at the quarterback position," said an AFC personnel executive. "The more you watch of what Denver did, when you look at the Florida tape, you see how they achieved what they did, in implementing those things."

But the AFC exec continued, "If you're a conventional, dropback team, and you're gonna ask him to hit moving targets and get the ball downfield and ask him to be a pocket-passing player, it's not a good fit. I applaud what Mike McCoy did. He adjusted to the player. That's what you have to do."

And if you do that on a full-time basis, rather than as a part-time fix, it can be complicated.

"I went through switching a defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and that's not even close to switching an offense for a quarterback, and it took two and a half, three years to get functional," said the NFC exec. "Your personnel has to change. Your philosophy's gotta change. A lot of these coaches aren't willing to do that."

Is it worth it to sell out, and blow up who you are? It's an interesting question. Yes, Tebow went 7-4 as a starter in the regular season. Yes, he won a playoff game. But Denver scored 15, 10, 38, 17, 17, 16, 35, 13, 23, 14 and 3 points in his 11 regular-season starts. And when they ran into Tom Brady's Patriots in the postseason, there was simply no keeping up.

What it adds up to is more questions, on whether or not what Denver did is actually sustainable. A quarterback's ability to consistently stay healthy while taking the pounding of playing option football, even at Tebow's size, is part of it. The rest of the league's ability to catch up to it is another.

"It creates game-plan issues for defensive coordinators," said the AFC exec. "Can you mesh it with things you might want to do from a prototypical sense? It's hard to project that, and that creates a dilemma. I can't answer it. You can determine the value today, and have some success, but is it sustainable? I don't think anyone can answer that. But in my gut, I'd be concerned with his lack of ability to be a pocket passer."

The AFC exec raised the possibility of using Tebow as a "package" quarterback or a "joker" type of weapon in an offense.

But the NFC exec warns that, "He's not fast enough to be an H-back/receiver-type guy. And as a fullback, he'd blow himself up. He's not a running back. He's not talented enough. As a quarterback, he's OK as a runner. But as a running back? No."

That led me to ask if that meant Tebow's simply an option quarterback, which elicited this reponse: "Correct. Yes."

In the end, the NFC exec saw it differently than the AFC exec did, suggesting that Denver should keep Tebow and develop him behind Manning, because he expects the return on the market to be minimal. "Unless someone blows your socks off," he said, "sit tight with him."

But what everyone acknowledges is that the right trade could well be out there for the Broncos. And it might come from the direction of an owner, seeing the star power and business opportunities Tebow would present.

"That's the wrong way to approach it," said the NFC exec. "It's about winning games. If you're gonna approach it by looking at ticket sales, then you're not a good owner."

It's not hard to see the amount of variables on the table with Tebow on the block.

One quarterback relocation ends. Another begins. And the one coming is far more complicated than the one that's now in the books.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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