While the debate over whether or not to continue holding the Pro Bowl is expected to continue this offseason, being named to the annual All-Star game is still considered to be quite an achievement. Yes, it can be a popularity contest as a portion of the vote is determined by the fans, but with players and coaches also voting, being chosen to represent his conference can be seen as a validation of sorts for young, up-and-coming players, particularly those who do not play on very good teams or in a media market that is often ignored by the national media.
There are also, of course, financial incentives to making the Pro Bowl. As noted on Thursday by ESPN's Adam Schefter, some of the 84 players selected for the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters earlier this week earned financial incentives by being "Original Ballot" selections for the annual All-Star game in Hawaii.
New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater earned a $300,000 incentive in his contract when he was named the AFC's "Special Teamer". Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey earned an additional $250,000 in his contract when he was named to his 12th Pro Bowl. On the NFC side, Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers picked up $200,000 for being named to the Pro Bowl. Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews earned a $50,000 incentive and his teammate, center Jeff Saturday, earned a $100,000 incentive after being one of the more controversial Pro Bowl selections after he has been benched last week in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith.
According to multiple league sources, those five players were not the only ones whose selection to the Pro Bowl will trigger financial incentives in their current contracts.
New York Giants guard Chris Snee's Pro Bowl nod has added $250,000 to his 2013 and 2014 base salaries. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has a $100,000 incentive in his contract. Even if Pierre-Paul did not reach the additional qualifiers to trigger that incentive, his selection to the Pro Bowl will add $100,000 to his 2014 base salary. Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey's Pro Bowl nod will add $62,500 to his 2014 base salary.
Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas' Pro Bowl selection, his second in as many seasons, has added another $75,000 to his 2013 base salary and $125,000 to his 2014 base salary. By making the Pro Bowl, and possessing a playing-time percentage (well) over 80% in 2012, Thomas can add another $125,000 to his 2013 salary and $150,000 to his 2014 salary if the Seahawks win a playoff game in January.
Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung has similar Pro Bowl incentive language in his contract, but according to playing-time data tracked by Shutdown Corner, is currently a percentage point short of the 90% necessary to trigger the escalation. If that changes after Sunday, and Okung finishes the regular season with a playing-time percentage above 90 percent, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft will add $125,000 to his 2014 base salary, which currently stands at $8.76 million, and $100,000 to his $4.8 million 2015 base salary. Up to an additional $550,000 in base salary escalation for 2014, and $340,000 in base salary escalation in 2015, is available if Okung reaches that 90% playing-time mark and the Seahawks advance to Super Bowl XLVII.
San Francisco 49ers left guard Mike Iupati's first Pro Bowl selection and 2012 playing-time percentage (over 97 percent entering Week 17) will add $225,000 to his 2014 base salary. 49ers safety Donte Whitner's Pro Bowl berth will add $100,000 to his $3.75 million base salary in 2013.
Notable Unearned Pro Bowl Incentives and Base Salary Escalators
Shutdown Corner noted on Thursday that Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber, who could be considered a Pro Bowl snub, lost out on a $1 million incentive when he was not voted to the Pro Bowl team. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had an exceptional season and his omission from the NFC Pro Bowl roster will cost him a $1 million base salary escalator for 2013. Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson made our "AFC Snubs: The Defense" list and his omission will cost him a $50,000 base salary escalator in 2014. If the Texans do not advance to the Super Bowl, perhaps teammate Johnathan Joseph will foot the bill for Jackson to join him in Honolulu.
Another snub, Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, loses out on a $500,000 escalator to his 2013 base salary, a league source has confirmed. Speaking of centers (more deserving than Jeff Saturday), Washington Redskins center Will Montgomery would not have been out of place on the Pro Bowl roster and his snub cost him a $350,000 base salary escalator in 2013. Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth was snubbed, costing him a $300,000 base salary escalator for 2013.