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6 Pro Bowlers Playing for the Bag

The Pro Bowl is a celebration of the NFL’s best players, but for some standout stars, it’s another shot at a big contract.

The NFL’s best are descending on Las Vegas this weekend for the 2022 Pro Bowl, and while the stakes aren’t necessarily high, the game gives a few select players a chance to re-enforce what they’re worth.

While each player will undoubtedly earn something for simply attending the game — $80,0000 to winners and $40,000 to losers — there’s always bigger money at stake in the NFL.

So, with the football equivalent of the NBA All-Star game kicking off in Sin City this weekend, let’s have a look at six players — three from the AFC and three from the NFC — who are due for a big bump in pay for their play.

WR Hunter Renfrow
Las Vegas Raiders

It’s been a breakout season for the shifty wideout, and what better place to show off his talents and celebrate his first Pro Bowl nod than in his home stadium?

Renfrow, who has appropriately earned his nickname of “The Slot Machine,” ranked among the top 10 in the league in receptions (103) and receiving touchdowns (nine) — both career highs. The slot receiver is also only the third player in franchise history to record 100-plus receptions in a single season, and the second wide receiver to record both 100-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards in a single season.

Now in the third year of his four-year rookie contract, Renfrow is most certainly in line for an extension. And given his ascension to QB Derek Carr’s go-to target, it’s only realistic that Raiders Nation will pay up.

Age: 26
Current Contract: Four years, $2.8 million
Notable Stats: Renfrow led the team in receiving yards with 1,038, becoming the first Raiders receiver to record over 1,000 receiving yards in a season since 2016.

DE Maxx Crosby
Las Vegas Raiders

It’s fair to say Maxx Crosby has come a long way since being drafted by the Raiders in 2019. After battling a much-publicized alcohol addiction, Crosby took the league by storm this season, registering a career year in the black and silver.

Crosby, a 6’5, 225-pound defensive end, made 46 tackles, 26 solo, and eight sacks, as well as seven pass breakups and 25 quarterback hits.

Much like his fellow Pro Bowl teammate Renfrow, the fourth-round pick is currently in the third year of his four-year rookie contract and will be looking for some love from Raider brass in the form of a contract extension.

Age: 24
Current Contract: Four years, $3.3 million
Notable Stats: Crosby became the first defensive end to finish with 100 or more pressures since 2006. 

WR Diontae Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers

While he may be a replacement for Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase, who is in the Super Bowl, Diontae Johnson has more than earned his place among the league’s elite pass catchers.

The third-year wideout put together his best season to date, logging 107 receptions for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. Johnson was also the Steelers’ leading receiver and had three 100-yard games in 2021. With the retirement of longtime QB Ben Roethlisberger, Johnson will need to adjust to a new signal-caller, but will undoubtedly continue to shine as the team’s No. 1 receiver.

Also in the third year of his rookie contract, Johnson is in line for a hefty pay bump should the Steelers offer him an extension.

Age:  25
Current Contract: Four years, $4.2 million
Notable Stats:
Johnson finished the season tied for fifth in the NFL in catches (107) and 10th in receiving yards (1,161).

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CB Trevon Diggs
Dallas Cowboys

A candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Diggs had a breakout second season for the Cowboys, earning his first Pro Bowl honor and being named First-Team All-Pro.

Diggs led the league with 11 interceptions and was second in total passes defended with 21. The 11 interceptions have him tied for the Cowboys’ franchise record.

While he can’t negotiate an extension until he’s played the third year of his rookie contract, Diggs is setting himself up nicely and will no doubt get consideration for a big payday from Jerry Jones if he can replicate his success in the year ahead.

Age:  23
Current Contract: Four years, $6.3 million
Notable Stats:
The Pro Football Writers of America named Diggs a Most Improved Player of the Year, sharing the honor with running back Cordarrelle Patterson of the Atlanta Falcons.

WR Jakeem Grant Sr
Chicago Bears

Even a midseason trade from the Dolphins to the Bears couldn’t prevent Grant from breaking out this season and earning his first Pro Bowl selection.

His 13.9 yards per punt return helped him earn Second-Team All-Pro honors as a punt returner, and a big 97-yard punt return for a touchdown earned him a spot in the record books.

The six-year veteran, who turns 30 in the year ahead, is on a one-year contract and will be hoping to parlay his Pro Bowl selection into another contract from the Bears or elsewhere.

Age: 29
Current Contract: One year, $2.3 million
Notable Stats:
Grant’s 97-yard punt for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in Week 14 was the longest punt return in Bears history and the ninth-longest ever in the NFL.

RB James Conner
Arizona Cardinals

Many thought Conner would never shine quite as bright as he did with the Steelers, but the hard-running tailback showed that he’s still got it with an inspired season in the Cardinals backfield.

Conner has been a force this season, becoming one of the top scorers in the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. He also rushed for 752 yards on 202 carries and had 37 receptions for 375 yards on his way to 1,127 yards from scrimmage.

He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and will seek a big pay raise from the Cards or perhaps another suitor.

Age: 26
Current Contract: One year, $1.75 million
Notable Stats:
Conners scored at least one touchdown in seven consecutive games for Arizona this season.

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