- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Conspiracy theorists will have fun with this.
Jets backup QB Tim Tebow has a playing-time incentive in his contract that triggers huge salary increases in 2013 and 2014, fueling speculation the team has purposely limited his snaps on offense to avoid a big salary-cap hit next season.
Based on his rookie contract, which he signed with the Broncos in 2010, Tebow receives a $5 million increase next season and a $6.25 million bump in 2014 if he plays in at least 55 percent of the offensive plays in two of his first three seasons, according to league sources.
Tebow reached the 55 percent mark last season, appearing in 76 percent of the Broncos' plays as an 11-game starter. This year, he has participated in a total of only 57 plays (9 percent), meaning it's a mathematical impossibility he will reach the 55 percent threshold.
Tebow's lack of playing time has been an ongoing theme, with many wondering why he hasn't played more in the Wildcat. Some even questioned why he didn't get mop-up duty in blowout losses to the 49ers and Dolphins. Others believe he should've replaced Mark Sanchez weeks ago.
Before the season, Rex Ryan said Tebow could play up to 20 plays per game. If he were averaging, say, 15 per game, he'd be up to 150 plays. Throw in some mop-up duty, and he'd have roughly 170 plays. He'd need an estimated 550 to hit the incentive, which means he'd have to start about six games. The Jets have six games left. Obviously, that ship has sailed -- but not long ago.
A team spokesman told ESPNNewYork.com that Tebow's incentive clause, brought to light by nyjetscap.com, has had no bearing on his playing time.
As of now, the Jets face serious cap problems for next season. If Tebow had hit the incentive, his 2013 cap figure would have ballooned from $2.6 million to $7.6 million. There's no way the Jets could afford that, considering they owe Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed money in 2013.
Tebow still could cash in with a $6.25 million salary increase for 2014. To do that, he'd have to participate in 70 percent of the plays next season.