The NFL 2023 Pro Bowl will look a lot different — it will be replaced with a flag football game and skill competitions — but the voting process remains unchanged. As usual, fans can get involved as as well to help send players to pro football’s all-star game.
This year’s Pro Bowl vote started on Nov. 15 and will run for one month through Dec. 15. Votes can be cast either through the league’s official website or, in the last two weeks, by taking to Twitter and 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 new-look event not carrying nearly the same importance as other all-star contests across North America’s major sports.
And yet, you should still participate in the voting process even this year. After all, there are two actual real-life reasons why you should cast a vote — preferably for players under contract with the New England Patriots.
1.) Pro Bowl bonuses
The Pro Bowl is 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 three players with such bonus money in their respective deals:
- S Cody Davis: $100,000 (NLTBE)
- WR Nelson Agholor: $500,000 (NLTBE)
- OT Trent Brown: $500,000 (NLTBE)
As can be seen, none of the three Pro Bowl bonuses are considered likely to be earned: Cody Davis, Nelson Agholor and Trent Brown did not make the Pro Bowl last year, meaning that the bonus money does not currently count against New England’s cap. If they make the Pro Bowl on first ballot this year, however, it would be added to the Patriots’ 2023 payroll.
Realistically, only Brown has a shot at earning his Pro Bowl bonus. After all, a) he has played some solid football this season, and b) his deal is structured differently from Davis’ Agholor’s: he would earn the bonus either if voted to the Pro Bowl or by playing at least 95 percent of New England’s offensive snaps. So far, Brown has been on the field for 100 percent of snaps.
2.) Fifth-year contract options
The NFL and the NFLPA agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020. While the addition of a seventh playoff team per conference and the 17-game regular season dominated the headlines afterwards, one of its under-the-radar changes impacted 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 for 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 Bowl:
- 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 rest.
New England has two current players falling under that system: quarterback Mac Jones and guard Cole Strange.
Jones did play in last year’s Pro Bowl, but he made it as a replacement player rather than an original-ballot selection. Accordingly, he still stands at zero Pro Bowls for the purpose of those calculations and it seems unlikely the number will change this year. The same is true for Cole Strange, who arrived in New England in April and has only appeared in nine up-and-down NFL games; he too will likely not be voted to the Pro Bowl.
At the end of the day, Pro Bowl votes could end up making a huge financial difference for players who make the cut. Realistically, only one of the Patriots directly impacted this year could make it — Trent Brown — but the honor as a whole is still an important one despite its devaluation over the last few years.
Pro Bowl nominations, after all, carry some meaning with NFL decision makers and Hall of Fame electors, and within the players community as well. The fan vote itself can only help so much in all of that, but it is a way for fans to show appreciation for players — whether they stand to financially benefit or not.
All of that considered speaks a pretty clear language: you should participate in the Pro Bowl vote, and this year’s is no exception.