Even though Earl Thomas says he’s resting instead of playing, the Seahawks could end up with more players in the Pro Bowl than any other NFC team.
Thomas, one of seven Seahawks selected to play in the Jan. 31 all-star game in Honolulu, posted on Facebook Tuesday he will skip it.
Carolina had a league-high 10 players selected for the Pro Bowl. But if the Panthers beat Arizona in Sunday’s NFC championship, those 10 players won’t be in the Pro Bowl but the Super Bowl.
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The Panthers in the Super Bowl would open up spots at defensive line. Carolina end Kawaan Short was selected; Seahawk defensive end Cliff Avril is an alternate.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is also a Pro Bowler; Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is an alternate, though he might decide to pass on playing if promoted from alternate after playing last weekend at what coach Pete Carroll said was less than 100 percent. That was Lynch’s first game in two months following abdominal surgery Nov. 25.
The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl selections tied with the Cardinals for second-most in the NFC. If Arizona beats Carolina to advance to Super Bowl 50 in two weeks, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s Pro Bowl spot opens. That’s how Doug Baldwin, who tied for the NFL lead with a Seahawks-record 15 touchdown catches this season, could play in his first Pro Bowl. Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell is a Pro Bowl selection, so if Arizona makes it to the Super Bowl Avril could join teammate Michael Bennett on the Pro Bowl’s defensive-line roster that way, too.
Baldwin could end up playing in his first Pro Bowl even if Arizona advances to the Super Bowl. There is talk the 32-year-old Fitzgerald will opt out of playing in the Pro Bowl, anyway. Plus, wide receiver Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets has already reportedly decided to not play in the all-star game.
Jets defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson got picked but can’t play in the Pro Bowl because he broke his leg in New York’s regular-season finale Jan. 3. That’s another way Avril could get to play in the game.
The Pro Bowl isn’t played by conference teams any more, so Avril could also get a spot if New England beats Denver in Sunday’s AFC title game. That’s because Patriots’ defensive end Chandler Jones got picked.
Seattle’s other Pro Bowl alternates are kicker Steven Hauschka and left tackle Russell Okung. If the Patriots go to the Super Bowl Stephen Gostkowski’s Pro Bowl kicking spot would become available for an alternate.
The league will announce official Pro Bowl playing rosters and promotion of alternates following Sunday’s conference championship games.
This is all relatively new for the Seahawks, figuring out who will play in the Pro Bowl. The previous two seasons they were playing in the Super Bowl, opening up their Pro Bowl spots for others around the league.
The official NFL transactions this week have listed players the Seahawks have signed to “futures” contracts, committing them to Seattle’s offseason workouts. Players on futures contracts are reserved to the teams that sign them until they become part of the 90-man offseason roster at the start of the league’s 2016 business year March 9. Teams sign prospects now to futures contracts to essentially put them on layaway for the offseason so other teams can’t.
Only players who were not on any active, 53-man roster at the end of the just-completed regular season are eligible for futures contracts. That primarily means practice-squad players -- one’s own team’s or another team’s -- plus any unrestricted free agents still unsigned as of Week 17 of the 2015 regular season.
The Seahawks this week have signed to futures contracts: FB Brandon Cottom, DB George Farmer, WR Deshon Foxx, WR Antwan Goodley, DT Justin Hamilton, DB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, WR Douglas McNeil, C Drew Nowak, OL/DL Will Pericak, DB Trovon Reed, DB Robert Smith, DE DeAngelo Tyson and DE Josh Shirley.
Yes, that’s the same Josh Shirley who was a pass-rush end for the University of Washington for a few seasons before he transferred to UNLV. He spent time in the 2015 offseason and preseason with Oakland and during the regular season as a rookie with Tampa Bay.