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How are Pro Bowl alternates determined?

The Pro Bowl has had some questionable roster decisions over the years, and it continued in 2023. We break down what

Tyler Huntley #2 of the Baltimore Ravens throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paycor Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The NFL Pro Bowl event has changed throughout the years, but one thing that has not changed is the use of regular and alternate selections. The roster is voted on by a combination of fans, players, and coaches, with each counting a third toward the final vote. The roster is announced in December, and then alternates to the Pro Bowl are announced.

The NFL is not all that transparent about the alternate process, but one report stated that alternates are added through a vote that is done entirely amongst the players in the league. As the report stated, it’s entirely possible and sometimes likely that players will vote for their teammates and friends as alternates rather than the players who have had the best season.

This has come into focus in 2023 because of the decision to add Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley to the Pro Bowl roster. Josh Allen elected to opt out of the game and Huntley was named to replace him. Huntley was first named as an alternate in late December. At the time, he had started two games and appeared in most of a third. He had 413 passing yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, to go along with 87 rushing yards and a rushing score.

That decision came the same day Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was named as a replacement for Super Bowl quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Huntley and Lawrence join Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on the AFC roster. UPDATE: Burrow has withdrawn and Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will replace him.

The NFL has moved away from a traditional AFC vs. NFC game in 2023, instead opting for a skills challenge and a flag football game. None of these players will play a regular game to close the season, but the decision on alternates can impact things like compensation. Players get paid to be in the Pro Bowl, but many also have clauses in their contract connected to Pro Bowl selections. It’s unclear if Huntley has such a bonus, but if he does, he gets to cash in.