Tim Tebow is back in the NFL after a short trip to the unemployment line, joining the New England Patriots on Monday as the team's No. 3, gadget quarterback in Bill Belichick's always-fun-to-watch offense.
Tebow has had the thirst and the desire to prove scouts, team management personnel and media pundits wrong since he was drafted by Josh McDaniels (now the Pats' offensive coordinator) and the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.
If his tireless work ethic, consistent attempts to improve his throwing motion and impassioned interviews about doing whatever it takes to help the team win don't convince you that this man is just here to play football, maybe a closer look at the numbers will.
The 25-year-old QB signed a two-year contract with the team on Monday, but the details of said contract weren't readily available as the media Mecca suddenly transitioned itself from East Rutherford to Foxborough when the news was announced.
Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com had the scoop on the contract information on Wednesday, though, and it sheds light on the idea that Tebow is cutting no corners in an attempt to prove to the Patriots (and the other 29 teams in the league) that he can one day assume his former post as an NFL starter.
The proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the numbers.
Although the official numbers for his contract are two years, $3.385 million, Tebow will have some work to do before he ever sees any green while wearing a jersey for New England in the regular season.
For starters, the contract is fully non-guaranteed right away, meaning the Patriots can decide to cut Tebow after training camp and prior to the start of the preseason and not owe him any of that money.
If he does prove valuable of a spot on the 53-man roster behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett (or ahead of Mallett, in what would be the position battle win of the offseason), the base salary for the 2013 campaign would be $630,000, with an injury split should he wind up on the injured reserve list.
Moving to 2014, this is where things get really interesting. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport agrees:
Besides a $25,000 workout bonus that Tebow will probably already have accrued by spending so much time at the Pats' facility that people want him to leave, the base salary doesn't increase much in 2014: $730,000.
Incentives start to kick in there, though, including a $500,000 spike should he get to 60 percent of New England's snaps that season. It moves up in increments of 10, reaching an 80 percent and playoff (or 10-win) threshold that would max out the deal.
At this point, no one believes that Tebow will play in 80 percent of New England's snaps in 2014.
No one but Tebow, that is.
Stranger things have happened in the NFL, and you get the sense—as noted by Ben Volin of The Boston Globe in his piece about Tebow's need to improve upon reading the defense—the Pats wouldn't have cut Mike Kafka if they didn't feel Tebow had some sort of role to carve out with improved play.
Anything Tebow gives the team this year is gravy, assuming he makes it past training camp. After that, he can make waves by either changing to an H-back-type role or being a quarterback that Belichick trusts with the offense in the event that Brady can't start.
At this point, Tebow is just happy to be here. His contract is enough to prove that perpetuating the idea of being the "savior" of a franchise or holding the title of hope for fans everywhere isn't the hot topic's No. 1 priority when he's playing for a franchise.
He just wants to contribute to the wins his team is racking up. While a position change is enticing, and would certainly allow the Pats to use his athleticism in open space (as noted by ESPN's Stats & Info), the fact that the Patriots signed him as a QB gives hope to the idea of seeing him under center again.
Tebow won't leave any stone unturned until that is no longer a possibility.
If you'll remember, this is the same guy who was reportedly flirting with the idea of permanent retirement just weeks ago. ESPN's David Fleming reported that Tebow's inner circle was unsure of his next move, starting up thoughts of what life in the NFL would be like without the former Florida star.
Those thoughts are firmly on hold for now.
There are plenty of people who don't see Tebow as a long-term option at QB. The Broncos and the New York Jets, for starters, both made it very clear that despite the on-field success, they had no desire to line Tebow up in the backfield.
Philadelphia Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson is one of a number of players to publicly question whether or not the new third-stringer can handle the toils and the demands of the position on a perennially good team.
But for every "hater" out there, you'll find another supporter for the Tebow cause.
Chalk it up to religion, the underdog card or just the American dream, but Tebow's rise to fame and fall from grace over the past six years or so is the single-greatest sports story that has defined the current era in which we are living.
And despite the odds, there are plenty of former NFL players, coaches and knowledgeable individuals willing to give the determination Tebow has shown over the last few years a chance to sprout into success at the highest level.
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post had a story about just that on Twitter:
So far, Tebow has been nothing but grateful, per Patriots.com, for the chance to prove he still belongs on a 53-man roster when the regular season opens in 2013. At this point, would anyone expect anything else? Coming back from the dead like the biblical story of Lazarus, Tebow has a chance to resurrect his NFL career.
And a chance to do so at the position of his choice—for now, at least.
By taking a team-friendly contract for a franchise that is set up with pieces from Florida (Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez), his former NFL stomping grounds (McDaniels) and a system that has the creativity to at least flirt with the idea of deployment on Sundays, Tebow leaves the Patriots in a win-win situation.
He leaves himself in a win-lose situation, but after it looked like all the chances were burned up, one emerged from the ashes to grant one more shot at the most coveted position on the field in the NFL.
And the contract proves he wouldn't have it any other way.
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