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Report: Tyler Huntley is fourth alternate for Pro Bowl, Lamar Jackson is third

It'll be Desmond Ridder for the Falcons against Tyler Huntley for the Ravens, as Atlanta looks to stay alive in the NFC South race, but Chris Simms and Mike Florio see it as a perfect matchup for Baltimore.

Some people get Christmas chocolates from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Others get articles blatantly aimed at boosting their future financial interests.

Here’s one that popped up earlier this morning. Citing unnamed sources (i.e., the player’s agent), Schefter reports that Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley is the fourth alternate for the AFC Pro Bowl -- one spot behind Ravens starter Lamar Jackson.

The article includes this not-so-subtle sales pitch: “Huntley is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason and he will continue his attempt Saturday to prove his value to Baltimore and other teams. Should some of the top quarterbacks back out and Huntley wind up going to the Pro Bowl, his offseason value could be further boosted.”

First of all, there is no Pro Bowl, just a series of made-for-TV events. It’s hard to see how Huntley’s value as a football player would be “boosted” in any way if he gets an invitation to participate in a bunch of non-football stuff.

Second, and far more importantly, Huntley won’t be a free agent after the season, not in the way that term is always used. He’ll be a restricted free agent. That’s a very significant difference. The Ravens will be able to apply a tender offer that would entitle the team to a first-round pick as compensation, if the Ravens don’t match an offer sheet Huntley gets from another team. Rarely does a player change teams via restricted free agency.

Third, how did Huntley end up as the fourth alternate? Schefter notes that Huntley finished higher than Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.

Again, how can that be? Huntley didn’t play until December 4, the game during which Jackson suffered a knee injury. And while some players get votes based solely on reputation, how would Huntley muster enough support from fans, players, and coaches to essentially finish seventh among all AFC quarterbacks?

The three AFC Pro Bowl quarterbacks are Josh Allen of the Bills, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, and Joe Burrow of the Bengals. Two alternates landed ahead of Jackson and Huntley; one reportedly is Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

If the other is Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, that means Huntley finished higher than Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If the other is Lawrence, it means Huntley finished higher than Herbert.

Schefter glosses over this point, possibly because it makes the report seem not credible. Absent someone going on the record to list the full roster of Pro Bowl alternates, many will choose to be very skeptical of the claim that Huntley finished as the fourth alternate. Even if that list is provided, many will choose to wonder whether there was some sort of chicanery in the vote collection and tabulation process.

For example, maybe Huntley’s agent launched a discreet (and perfectly legitimate) effort to get friends, relatives, etc. to stuff the ballot box for Huntley. Assuming that coaches and players name only three quarterbacks on their own ballots, it wouldn’t take much for the one-third fan vote to push a given player into fourth-alternate position. Really, how many quarterbacks other than Allen, Mahomes, and Burrow would have been the three quarterbacks chosen by anyone who knows anything about football?

Bottom line -- this one just doesn’t pass the smell test. Regardless, even if the report is 100-percent dead-on balls accurate, will any NFL decision makers suddenly decide that Huntley is someone their team must pursue, simply because of an early-morning Christmas gratuity from Schefter that contains flaws both of fact and logic?

At least the chocolates are real.