The NFL’s voting process for the 2022 Pro Bowl is underway. As usual, fans are also part of this process and they have until December 16 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.
After all, 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. After all, those votes could end up making a huge financial difference for those 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 salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, have six players with such bonus money in their respective deals:
- OT Trent Brown: $1 million (NLTBE)
- LB Dont’a Hightower: $500,000 (LTBE)
- WR Nelson Agholor: $500,000 (NLTBE)
- G Shaq Mason: $500,000 (NLTBE)
- WR Matthew Slater: $100,000 (LTBE)
- S Cody Davis: $100,000 (NLTBE)
As can be seen, two of the six Pro Bowl bonuses are considered likely to be earned (LTBE) based on the fact that the respective players — Matthew Slater and Dont’a Hightower — made the Pro Bowl during their last eligible seasons in 2020 and 2019. That means that their bonuses are already counting against New England’s cap this season; the others would hit the 2022 cap if voted to the Pro Bowl on first ballot.
2.) Fifth-year contract options
The NFL and the NFLPA agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement last year. While the addition of a seventh playoff team per conference and 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), there will be a difference between players in Tiers 3 and 4 and the others.
New England has two current players falling under that system: wide receiver N’Keal Harry and quarterback Mac Jones.
Harry has not reached a Pro Bowl yet, and in combination with his limited playing time will remain in Tier 1 heading into his fifth-year decision next spring. Jones, on the other hand, has played some impressive football in his first year with the Patriots. Is he worthy of Pro Bowl recognition yet? Probably not, but his status is one worth watching in the future.
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.
This year, you have until December 16 to cast your vote.