Tuesday afternoon turned out to be a busy day in the NFL. Vincent Jackson went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pierre Garcon joined the Washington Redskins and Brandon Marshall will be re-united with his former Broncos teammate Jay Cutler in Chicago.
And while the greater focus is on Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams and the wooing of Peyton Manning, the offseason move that has the best chance to move the most money is undeniably Tim Tebow to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If Manning goes to Denver, Tebow could be traded. And there is no player in the NFL who would generate more for a team than Tim Tebow would for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Let’s show you why.
The Jaguars are one of eight NFL teams that had less than 93 percent of its seats filled (92.8%) last season, but when you consider that a tarp covers up more than 9,000 seats, the percentage capacity is actually 81 percent. That means that, outside of Cincinnati (which had 75.2% capacity), the Jacksonville Jaguars had the worst average attendance on a capacity basis.
Compare that to Denver, which essentially sells out their season from Day 1.
Not only did Tebow grow up in Jacksonville, he of course won two national championships and the Heisman Trophy at Florida, whose Gainesville campus is an hour and a half drive from Jacksonville.
“There would be a huge opportunity for the Jaguars to capture the Gators fans within a two- to three-hour drive who occasionally buy tickets,” said Patrick Ryan, co-owner of The Ticket Experience, a sports ticket brokerage in Houston who says he sold 22,000 NFL tickets last season.
Ryan says he’s confident that the Jaguars, who had to discount the tickets even when covering up the seats, could immediately sell out the season through season tickets and 3-game packages that also make the buyer purchase a preseason game.
“There’s big money in getting the Florida Gators mailing list,” Ryan said. “Not only do they care about Tebow, but they know the Jacksonville area, since they go there for the Georgia game.”
Aside from tickets, the Jaguars could exponentially increase their price on any space that will get more visibility because of Tebow. The Jaguars postgame press conference banner currently has the logo of Everbank, which is paying $3 million a year to have its name on the field, but there’s likely plenty of new sponsor inventory to sell.
The team already passed up on Tebow when they had the ninth pick in the 2010 Draft, choosing Cal defensive end Tyson Alualu, who didn’t help sell many tickets. Tebow slipped to No. 25, where the Broncos drafted him.
But new owner Shahid Khan told the local radio station WOKV that, had he been the owner of the team at the time, he would have drafted Tebow.
Tebow finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the league in jersey sales, only behind Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and he has already exhibited his popularity in Jacksonville.
Last May, 600 tickets to a Tebow booksigning in the city sold out in hours, with some people camping out overnight for his autograph. Tebow is talking at a church in Jacksonville this Thursday. The church sold tickets online for $50 each and it was of course quickly sold out.
The Jaguars are scheduled to have “Select-Your-Seat” this Friday, but the team might want to hold out, as they might want to re-price if they get Tebow, much like the Los Angeles Clippers did when the acquired Chris Paul the night before their single-game tickets went on sale.
For Jacksonville, there’s virtually no risk in Tebow, as his 2012 salary is $1,150,000. The team can make up that money minutes after signing him. Sure, there will be more pressure to continue to start Tebow if he falters, but making fans happy after a 5-11 season isn’t that hard. And from a money standpoint, it’s definitely the right decision.
After a 1-4 start, Tebow replaced Kyle Orton and led the Broncos into the postseason. The team shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers before losing to the New England Patriots.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com