Smarts and efficiency set Tebow apart

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Smarts and efficiency set Tebow apart

DENVER - The go-to number when discussing Tim Tebow's quarterbacking (aside from the wins) is his completion percentage.How can a guy win six straight games in the NFL of 2011 when he's completing only 48 percent of his passes? It's the worst in the league. But the stat that helps explain why he is successful - and it's a stat that goes back to Florida and likely before - is giveaways. Tim Tebow doesn't turn the ball over. In his eight starts, he's been intercepted twice and thrown 11 touchdowns. He's fumbled three times. His interception percentage is one percent. Best in the NFL. Josh Freeman's thrown 18 picks. Cam Newton's thrown 16. We could go on. But being at the bottom of the league in completion percentage is a lot worse if some of those incompletions are caught by the other team. Tebow's are not. Hence, his very capable defense is not put in bad situations one or more times per game as the rest of the league's defenses are. And how often are we told that turnovers and red zone play are the key indicators for wins and losses? (Lots). Another stat? Not only is Tebow 32nd in completion percentage, he's also 32nd in rushing. Among all rushers. He's got the second-most yards among quarterbacks behind Newton's 554. Tebow's got 517. Look at it this way, on those 91 runs, he's averaging 5.5 per carry. Add the 517 yards rushing to the 1,290 passing and you have a player who's got 1,807 positive yards from scrimmage and five turnovers (he's lost three fumbles). And he's done that in eight starts. This is how Tebow has operated though. In college, he threw 88 touchdown passes and 16 picks. There were 40 games in which he was the Gators' true starter in the SEC where he played under scrutiny, pressure and against the best competition and athletes in college football. That helps explain why he's so good in end-game situations as well. By way of comparison, Mark Sanchez had 15 starts at USC. And he threw 14 picks in those games. Tebow is a more experienced, tested, smarter and productive quarterback than he's been given credit for. And even though his completion percentage is down, he's a pretty complete player.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.