The Potential Pay Raises From Potential 2020 Pro Bowl Honors

The Pro Bowl is a fickle award, in multiple ways:

  • It is, of course, an entirely subjective award, determined from the opinions of the players, coaches, and fans.
  • The number of players per position it awards is not a perfect match to the field–for example, there are as many quarterbacks and running backs named as there are safeties, even though there are usually more safeties on the field.
  • It is divided by conference, meaning some great players can get denied the honor if their conference has much tougher competition at their position than the other conference.
  • And some position designations are antiquated–particularly for edge rushers, who are at the whim of their coordinator’s scheme of whether they’re designated defensive ends or linebackers, and the differing competition they could have as a result.

When individual contracts are negotiated, occasionally there are Pro Bowl incentives or escalators, but it’s more common to see more objective metrics such as yardage, touchdowns, negative plays on defense, snap counts, or postseason play. However, despite some of the issues listed above, the 2020 CBA unusually implemented leaguewide Pro Bowl escalators in standardized contracts.

There are two situations in the CBA where an original ballot (not as an alternate) Pro Bowl honor could result in a raise in salary:

  • Article 7, Section 4(e)(iv) creates a new tier of Proven Performance Escalator that can raise the salary of a player drafted outside of the first round to the value of the 2nd round restricted free agent tender.
  • Article 7, Section 7(g)(iii-iv) calls for fifth year options on first round rookie contracts to equate to the transition tag if named to a Pro Bowl once in their first three seasons, and to the franchise tag for two or three.

This article will take a look at some of the players that could see notable raises in their salaries should they earn an original ballot Pro Bowl, grouped by conference and position. All numbers used are OTC’s estimates for the fifth year options for the 2018 first round picks, and for the franchise, transition, and RFA tenders.

AFC Quarterback

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Baker MayfieldFifth Year Option$18,281,000$21,206,000$2,925,000
Josh AllenFifth Year Option$18,281,000$21,206,000$2,925,000
Lamar JacksonFifth Year Option$21,206,000$23,511,000$2,305,000

Patrick Mahomes should have one spot locked down. Deshaun Watson should be favored for another in spite of the Texans’ general 2020 struggles. Jackson, the MVP last season, could defend his Pro Bowl spot despite a third season that hasn’t met the lofty heights of his second. If he doesn’t, could Mayfield or Allen break into the group, given their teams’ overall success this season? Prime competition could come from Ryan Tannehill, Mahomes’s replacement in the last Pro Bowl, and the reputation of Ben Roethlisberger can’t be counted out given the Steelers’ successful season, despite some struggles in his most recent games.

AFC Wide Receiver

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
AJ BrownFourth Year Salary$1,265,778$3,593,100$2,327,322
DJ CharkFourth Year Salary$2,240,000$3,422,000$1,182,000

Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill should be locks for half of the spots here, but things open up a bit after them, particularly after Will Fuller’s suspension. Brown in particular should have a good chance given the Titans’ general success. Chark had a 1,000 yard season last year, but reduced numbers from a mightily struggling Jaguars team may shut off his last chance of getting a higher PPE raise.

NFC Wide Receiver

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
DJ MooreFifth Year Option$18,281,000$21,206,000$2,925,000
Calvin RidleyFifth Year Option$18,281,000$21,206,000$2,925,000
DK MetcalfFourth Year Salary$2,602,000$3,593,100$991,000
Terry McLaurinFourth Year Salary$2,602,000$3,593,100$991,000
Justin JeffersonFifth Year OptionTBDTBDTBD

Competition here is expected to be very fierce. DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams have the history that will keep their odds high, but it is Metcalf that is leading the league in receiving yards, while Jefferson, Ridley and McLaurin just joined the 1,000 yard club, with Moore not too far behind in the 900s. This will be the last chance for Moore and Ridley to take advantage of a Pro Bowl pay raise, as they are part of the 2018 rookie class, but Metcalf and McLaurin will have another shot as 2019 members, and Jefferson, of course, is a rookie.

AFC Offensive Tackle

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Braden SmithFourth Year Salary$2,490,000$3,422,000$932,000
Orlando Brown, Jr.Fourth Year Salary$2,490,000$3,422,000$932,000

Injuries to Ronnie Stanley, Taylor Lewan, and Mitchell Schwartz have left spots here very open. Of the two, Brown will have the likely edge due to his previous appointment as an alternate in last year’s Pro Bowl, although peers like Anthony Castonzo are pounding the table for Smith. Other newcomers that could provide competition are Garett Bolles (recently signed to an extension with the Broncos) and Dion Dawkins, while past Pro Bowlers like Laremy Tunsil, Alejandro Villanueva, and Eric Fisher also loom large.

NFC Offensive Guard

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Alex CappaFourth Year Salary$2,240,000$3,422,000$1,182,000

Cappa is a name that may not be as familiar as others mentioned here, but as of December 3rd he has found his way to the top of the fan voting at this spot, so he’s worth a mention considering that this is his last chance to seal the top PPE raise.

NFC Center

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Erik McCoyFourth Year Salary$2,602,000$3,593,100$991,000

Travis Frederick’s retirement leaves one of the two center spots here wide open. Could McCoy, playing on a good Saints team, be the benefactor and hold off stalwarts like Alex Mack and Jason Kelce?

NFC Defensive Tackle

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Vita VeaFifth Year Option$7,080,000$11,121,000$4,041,000
Da’Ron PayneFifth Year Option$8,282,000$11,121,000$2,839,000

Aaron Donald will of course be a lock for one of the three spots here. Fletcher Cox is another regular here but he is on a struggling Eagles team this season. Vea and Payne are both part of fierce defensive fronts in Tampa Bay and Washington, and as 2018 first rounders this is their final shot of getting their fifth year options pushed up to the transition tag level.

AFC Outside Linebacker (Edge Rusher)

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Bradley ChubbFifth Year Option$10,074,000$13,071,000$2,997,000

Chubb, as the fifth overall pick by the Broncos in the 2018 NFL Draft, could take advantage of the fact that most of the leading AFC edge rushers (Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa) are considered defensive ends. Among those that are considered linebackers, TJ Watt of course will be the leading candidate. But with Watt’s teammate Bud Dupree having the great misfortune of tearing his ACL while on the franchise tag, it is now Chubb who is at least tied for the next spot behind Watt in sacks and tackles for loss. If Chubb does get his first Pro Bowl, he would replace another injured teammate in Von Miller, who of course has been a regular here for many seasons.

AFC Inside Linebacker

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Tremaine EdmundsFifth Year Option$10,074,000$13,071,000$2,997,000

Edmunds made his way to participating in the last Pro Bowl as an alternate. With the player he replaced, Dont’a Hightower, opting out of the season, Edmunds could be a natural replacement for Hightower again, but this time on the original ballot.

NFC Inside Linebacker

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Roquan SmithFifth Year Option$10,074,000$13,071,000$2,997,000
Fred WarnerFourth Year Salary$2,490,000$3,422,000$932,000

Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly have long dominated the two available spots here, but now with Kuechly retired there is room for younger blood. Could this include Smith or Warner, who have been regarded well but have yet to make the break up to the Pro Bowl tier?

AFC Safety

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Minkah FitzpatrickFifth Year Option$9,312,000$10,916,000$1,604,000

Fitzpatrick earned his first Pro Bowl bid last season that already boosted his fifth year option considerably, and he should be a favorite to repeat the honor to boost that salary further up.

AFC Cornerback

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Denzel WardFifth Year Option$12,869,000$14,878,000$1,604,000

Like Fitzpatrick, Ward will be trying to add a second Pro Bowl in his first three seasons to secure this raise. Unlike Fitzpatrick, Ward should have stiffer competition from his peers for these spots, as the defending honorees from last season have all been active and playing typical to their performance.

NFC Cornerback

PlayerSalary TypeCurrent SalaryPotential SalaryPotential Raise
Jaire AlexanderFifth Year Option$9,893,000$12,869,000$2,976,000
Carlton DavisFourth Year Salary$2,490,000$3,422,000$932,000

Tough competition for these spots could make it difficult to Alexander to get this raise in his last chance before the fifth year option values are determined. Among that competition is Davis, who like Cappa has been bolstered by leading the fan vote.