‘Tis is the season, not just for holiday cheer but also the NFL Pro Bowl vote. As usual, fans are also part of this process and they have until December 17 to either go to the league’s official website to cast their votes or take to Twitter by using the hashtag #ProBowlVote in combination with a player’s name.
While the process itself is rather straight-forward, the Pro Bowl has little actual value from the perspective of fans and analysts alike. It has essentially turned into a popularity contest much like NFL Network’s annual Top 100 list, with the game itself not carrying the same importance as other all-star contests across North America’s major sports. And yet, you should still participate in the voting process.
Yes, there are two actual real-life reasons why you should head over to NFL.com or Twitter to cast a vote — preferably for players under contract with the New England Patriots — and participate. After all, those votes could end up making a major financial difference for the respective players who make the cut.
1.) Pro Bowl bonuses
The Pro Bowl is certainly not an accurate tool to measure a player’s success on the football field, but teams still like to use bonuses tied to the all-star game in their contracts. The Patriots, according to our friend Miguel Benzan, have four players with such bonus money in their respective deals: quarterback Cam Newton, wide receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater, guard Shaq Mason, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
While Hightower is not eligible for the Pro Bowl given that he opted out of the 2020 season due to Coronavirus concerns, the other three are very much in a position to earn some additional cash on top of their current deals. Sure, Cam Newton will likely not make the Pro Bowl given his inconsistent performance this season, but both Slater and Mason are realistic options who certainly have earned the recognition this year.
2.) Fifth-year contract options
The NFL and the NFLPA agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement earlier this year. While the addition of a seventh playoff team per conference and eventually the 17-game regular season dominated the headlines afterwards, one under-the-radar change was related to the fifth-year options built into first-round rookie contracts.
That fifth-year option itself is still part of the CBA but it was slightly altered and affecting first-round picks from the 2018 draft on. The main change compared to the previous system was the introduction of an escalator system based on individual levels of accomplishment. All four of those levels are directly tied to the Pro Bowls:
- Tier 1: No Pro Bowl nomination, no playing time thresholds met
- Tier 2: No Pro Bowl nomination, playing time thresholds met
- Tier 3: One Pro Bowl nomination
- Tier 4: Multiple Pro Bowl nominations
Being voted to the Pro Bowl while on a rookie contract can make a major difference for a young player still waiting to get his first major payday. While the financials will be set each year in relation to the salary cap (which in turn is calculated based on the league’s revenue), the expectation is that there will be a significant difference between players in Tiers 3 and 4 who have made the Pro Bowl and those who have not.
New England, of course, has three current players falling under that system: running back Sony Michel, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
Neither Michel nor Harry have reached a Pro Bowl level yet, and in combination with limited playing time are thus still in Tier 1. Wynn, on the other hand, has played some impressive football before a Week 11 knee injury forced the Patriots to send him to injured reserve. Is he worthy of Pro Bowl recognition? Probably not quite, but he is still a name to watch with the team having to make a decision on him (and Michel) next spring.
Of course, Pro Bowl voting also carries some meaning with Hall of Fame electors and within the players community as well. But the two financial reasons listed above are the key, and why you should participate in the Pro Bowl Fan Vote after all both in 2020 and beyond.
This year, you have until December 17 to cast your vote.