Source: Tim Tebow signs with New England Patriots

Tim Tebow looks on after a game against Tim Tebow looks on after a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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When the Jets released Tim Tebow a day after the draft and then weeks went by without a team expressing interest in the quarterback, the buzz around the NFL was that this might be it for the Heisman Trophy winner.

Now, Tebow figures to be playing against his old team next season.

The Patriots are expected to sign Tebow to a contract, a league source familiar with the Patriots' situation said, and see if they can incorporate him into their offense more effectively than the Jets, who failed miserably after trading for the former Broncos first-round draft pick.

Tebow could be on the field when the Patriots open a three-day minicamp Tuesday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, according to another league source. The news of Tebow's signing with the Patriots was first reported by ESPN.

If Tebow sticks with the Patriots, it won't be long before he faces the Jets: New England hosts the Jets on Thursday night, Sept. 12. The teams play again at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 20.

Tebow refused to give up his dream of continuing his career in the NFL, despite predictions by many around the league that he'd have to play in Canada or in the Arena League to revive his career. But at least now he'll get the chance to stay in the NFL, although he is not assured of a roster spot in New England.

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It's expected that the Patriots will use Tebow at quarterback. The fact that the Patriots Monday released backup quarterback Mike Kafka, who was third on the depth chart behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, suggests that coach Bill Belichick is willing to give Tebow a try at quarterback.

Several people around the NFL have suggested that Tebow's skills would be better suited to playing situational running back, tight end or H-back, and Belichick is willing to show creativity in designing plays for players with unique talents. The Patriots may be forced to start the season without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recently had back surgery.

Tebow's run with the Jets was ill-fated from the start.

The Jets had planned to use him as a Wildcat quarterback, but he barely saw the field after a preseason that featured almost nonstop hype.

Tebow wound up completing only 6 of 8 passes for 39 yards and no touchdowns. He ran for 102 yards on 32 carries and did not have a touchdown. Tebow was also used as the personal punt protector. And when coach Rex Ryan benched starter Mark Sanchez late in the season, he turned to third-stringer Greg McElroy -- and not Tebow, who had been listed as the No. 2 quarterback all season.

Tebow is now reunited with former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who is back with the Patriots as their offensive coordinator. McDaniels drafted Tebow in the first round in 2010, but was fired after that season. McDaniels previously worked as Belichick's offensive coordinator before getting the Broncos' job.

Tebow didn't get a chance to start for the Broncos until McDaniels' replacement, John Fox, switched quarterbacks in Week 6 of the 2011 season. Tebow then rallied the Broncos with several late-game comebacks, including one against the Jets when he ran for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter, and got Denver into the playoffs. Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime in a 29-23 first-round win over the Steelers.

Denver was beaten a week later by the Patriots. New England drubbed the Broncos, 45-10, as Tebow threw for just 136 yards and no touchdowns.

Belichick might also have been swayed to consider signing Tebow because of the quarterback's ties to former Florida coach Urban Meyer. Belichick and Meyer have developed a close relationship, and the two often consult one another on football matters.

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