Pro Bowls can no longer work as only an exhibition game. The risk for injury in a meaningless game is too high and the rules that are restricted against defenses not being allowed to blitz pointless. Even though it is a glorified popularity contest, the current format for the Pro Bowl does nothing to excite the game.
My colleague Kyle Barber recently wrote an article about how the NHL can fix the Pro Bowl and make the game more meaningful.
Right now, the Pro Bowl is no longer divided by conferences, but by hall of fame players selecting players in a draft. It's somewhat interesting, but not enough to move the needle for a lot of people to care.
Something has to be on the line to make it noteworthy. MLB created an all star game where the winner between the American League and National League gets home field advantage in the World Series. That is a bit extreme for some people, but the idea of something being on the line would make the Pro Bowl valuable.
There are two things that the NFL could do to make the Pro Bowl interesting:
Put salary cap space on the line
First and foremost, let me start by saying that I think the Pro Bowl needs to go back to the AFC vs. NFC format. Here is what I think should happen in this scenario. The winner between the AFC and the NFC in the Pro Bowl will receive an additional 10 million dollars in cap space.
This means that 16 teams in one conference will receive 10 million dollars each in salary cap space while the loser is left with what they already have in addition to the league's increase in cap space each year.
The players in this case can certainly come out was winners as they have a chance for their respective teams to gain more money along with the fact that their teams will have little excuses not to re-sign them to long term deals.
Extra playoff spot will be awarded
The NFL has already been in talks over the last year about playoff expansion to 14 teams (Seven in each conference) and while talks have stalled in that regard, the possibility of playoff expansion hasn't been ruled out. In this scenario, the winner between the AFC and the NFC will be awarded with an extra playoff spot for the following season.
The total number of playoff teams for the winner would be 13, with seven in one conference. The winner of the Pro Bowl will also have the opportunity for the number one seed in their conference come playoff time to be the only team with a first round bye.
Even though some could look at this as a disadvantage for the winner as more competition would be added to the mix, the idea gives another chance for another wild card contender.
There are a lot of NFL fans who want the league to get rid of the Pro Bowl completely and just make it a skills competition. Have the quarterbacks go through passing drills, let wide receivers run routes, let pass rushers go one on one against offensive linemen and other things of that nature.
At this point, it seems like it is more likely that the NFL adds a skills competition before they get rid of the Pro Bowl completely.