Julian Edelman’s current retirement has sparked passionate conversations about his future Corridor of Fame candidacy. Edelman’s detractors level to his zero Professional Bowls and underwhelming regular-season stats. His supporters level to his laundry checklist of postseason accolades.
Whereas Edelman will not be eligible for the Corridor of Fame till 2026, there are a slew of eligible former gamers who’re nonetheless ready for his or her name to Canton, Ohio. Many deserving gamers have been handed over as a result of they performed for a small market workforce; different gamers had been overshadowed by extra celebrated teammates. For regardless of the purpose, there are quite a few deserving gamers who might by no means obtain a bronze bust and a gold jacket.
With that in thoughts, we determined to place collectively an inventory of the 25 greatest NFL gamers who are usually not within the Corridor of Fame. Precisely 40% of the checklist is comprised of linebackers and receivers, whereas just one quarterback was capable of crack our high 25.
25. QB Ken Anderson
Crew: Bengals (1971-86)
The Bengals’ all-time main passer, Anderson’s increase underneath Invoice Walsh’s “West Coast” offense set the stage for Walsh’s success with Joe Montana in San Francisco. A four-time Professional Bowler, Anderson led the NFL in completion proportion 3 times. He additionally led the NFL in passing yards in consecutive seasons. In 1981, Anderson received each league MVP and Comeback Participant of the Yr whereas main the Bengals to their first Tremendous Bowl.
24. WR Steve Tasker
Groups: Oilers (1985-86); Payments (1986-97)
One of many best particular groups gamers in NFL historical past, Tasker earned seven Professional Bowl nods from 1987-95. Throughout that span, Tasker helped the Payments develop into the primary franchise to seem in 4 consecutive Tremendous Bowls. Tasker’s brilliance was on show in the course of the opening minutes of Tremendous Bowl XXVII. With the Cowboys punting from their very own 16-yard line, Tasker was lined up in opposition to linebacker Robert Jones, a rookie who crammed in for an injured starter. Jones did not have an opportunity in opposition to Tasker, who beat Jones on an inside transfer earlier than blocking Mike Saxon’s punt. Tasker’s play arrange the sport’s first landing.
23. WR Sterling Sharpe
Crew: Packers (1988-94)
Whereas an damage minimize his profession quick, Sharpe did loads of harm throughout his seven-year profession. A five-time Professional Bowler and three-time All-Professional, Sharp led the league in receptions three completely different occasions. He additionally led the NFL in landing receptions on two separate events. In 1992, Brett Favre’s first season because the Packers’ beginning quarterback, Sharpe led the NFL in receptions (108), yards (1,461) and touchdowns (13).
22. WR Otis Taylor
Crew: Chiefs (1965-75)
A participant who was really forward of his time, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Taylor was one of many first receivers to totally use his physicality to his benefit. In 1965, Taylor spurned the NFL (he was drafted by the Eagles with the 203rd decide within the NFL draft) to play for the AFL’s Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. In his second season, Taylor led the AFL in common yards per catch whereas serving to lead the Chiefs to the first-ever Tremendous Bowl. The AFL’s chief in landing catches the next season, Taylor helped the Chiefs seize their first Tremendous Bowl win on the finish of the 1969 season. His 46-yard landing sealed Kansas Metropolis’s 23-7 win over the Vikings, the final sport ever performed between the rival leagues.
Taylor’s transition to the NFL was seamless after the 2 leagues merged in 1970. A yr after the merge, Taylor led the NFL in receiving yards whereas incomes All-Professional honors. He earned Professional Bowl honors once more in 1972 on the age of 30.
21. S Darren Woodson
Crew: Cowboys (1992-03)
A cornerstone of the Nineteen Nineties Cowboys’ championship defenses, Woodson earned 5 consecutive Professional Bowl nods whereas serving to Dallas win three titles over a four-year span. With Drew Pearson’s upcoming induction, Woodson — the Cowboys’ all-time profession chief in tackles — is now the best Cowboy at present not within the Corridor of Fame.
20. DE Jim Marshall
A valued member of Minnesota’s “Purple Individuals Eaters” defensive position, Marshall holds quite a few NFL information, together with essentially the most seasons performed by a defensive participant (20, together with Junior Seau and Darrell Inexperienced), most consecutive video games by a defensive participant (282), most consecutive begins by a defensive participant (270), and most profession fumble recoveries (30). Marshall, who was nonetheless a starter at age 42, helped the Vikings win three NFC titles together with the NFL championship in 1969.
19. DT Steve McMichael
Considered one of greatest gamers on the Bears’ vaunted 46 protection, McMichael earned his first of two first-team All-Professional honors in 1985 whereas serving to Chicago seize its solely Lombardi Trophy. A two-time Professional Bowler, McMichael had 92.5 profession sacks for Chicago, second in franchise historical past. McMichael and Dan Hampton (a 2002 Corridor of Fame inductee) shaped one of many best defensive duos in NFL historical past, a unit that totaled 41.5 sacks from 1984-88.
18. LB Tommy Nobis
Crew: Falcons (1966-76)
Atlanta’s first draft decide, Nobis performed on simply two successful groups throughout his 11-year tenure with the Falcons. Regardless of his workforce’s lack of success, Nobis earned the popularity of his friends, incomes 5 Professional Bowl alternatives and one All-Professional nod throughout his first seven seasons.
Named the NFL’s Rookie of the Yr in 1966 by Sporting Information, Nobis recorded a whopping 294 tackles that season. That complete will not be solely a Falcons’ franchise report, it’s unofficially the essentially the most tackles ever credited to a participant in NFL historical past, based on the Falcons’ workforce web site. Nobis’ early success earned him a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Crew for the Sixties.
17. CB Lester Hayes
Crew: Raiders (1977-86)
Identified throughout his taking part in days as “The Decide,” Hayes was a dominant shut down defender who earned 5 straight Professional Bowl nods from 1980-84. Hayes received Defensive Participant of the Yr in 1980 whereas main the NFL with 13 interceptions. Hayes helped the Raiders win their second Tremendous Bowl that season. Three years later, he teamed up with Corridor of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes to close down Washington’s gifted receiving corps in Tremendous Bowl XVIII. Hayes is a member of the NFL’s All-Nineteen Eighties Crew.
Crew: 49ers (2007-14)
Willis packed rather a lot into a comparatively quick profession. Throughout his seven full seasons in San Francisco, Willis earned Professional Bowl honors annually whereas additionally receiving 5 first-team All-Professional nods. A member of the NFL’s All-2010s Crew, Willis twice led the NFL in tackles. Willis’ play largely contributed to the 49ers’ NFC title in 2012 in addition to the franchise’s three consecutive NFC title sport appearances from 2011-13.
15. LB Sam Mills
Few gamers have had a much bigger affect on a franchise than Mills. Whereas he initially made his mark in New Orleans, Mills introduced a direct spark to the enlargement Panthers. After racking up 110 tackles throughout his first season in Carolina, Mills earned All-Professional honors in 1996 whereas serving to the Panthers attain the NFC Championship Sport in simply their second yr of existence. Mills loved a productive third season with the Panthers earlier than calling it a profession after the 1997 season.
A five-time Professional Bowler, Mills is a member of the Saints‘ Corridor of Fame in addition to the Panthers’ Ring of Honor. A former Panthers assistant coach, Mills, who continued to educate regardless of receiving a most cancers analysis, was the inspirational power behind the Panthers’ run to Tremendous Bowl XXXVIII. His “maintain pounding” mantra continues to function the workforce’s rallying cry. Mills, who died in April of 2005, had his quantity 51 retired by the Panthers earlier than the beginning of the ’05 season. A statue of Mills in his Panthers jersey at present sits outdoors Financial institution of America Stadium.
14. WR Hines Ward
Crew: Steelers (1998-11)
The Steelers‘ all-time chief in receptions, yards and touchdowns, Ward can also be eighth all-time in profession postseason receiving yards (1,181). Three of Ward’s 4 consecutive Professional Bowl alternatives got here with completely different quarterbacks: Kordell Stewart (2001), Tommy Maddox (2002-03) and a rookie named Ben Roethlisberger (2004). In 2005, Ward received Tremendous Bowl MVP honors whereas serving to lead Pittsburgh to its fifth Tremendous Bowl victory. He was the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver when Pittsburgh defeated the Cardinals three years later in Tremendous Bowl XLIII. Ward is taken into account essentially the most bodily receiver of his period.
13. S LeRoy Butler
Crew: Packers (1990-01)
Butler is without doubt one of the two first-team safeties on the NFL’s All-Decade workforce for the Nineteen Nineties. The opposite is Steve Atwater, who was a part of the 2020 Corridor of Fame induction class. A four-time All-Professional (that included three straight seasons from 1996-98), the versatile Butler racked up 38 interceptions, 889 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 13 compelled fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries over his profession. He additionally recorded the primary Lambeau Leap, which ought to positively rely for one thing. Butler’s success helped the Packers win one Tremendous Bowl and two NFC titles in the course of the ’90s.
12. LB Clay Matthews
Groups: Browns (1978-93); Falcons (1994-96)
A four-time Professional Bowler, Matthews spent 16 of his 19 NFL seasons with the Browns, serving to Cleveland win 5 AFC Central division titles in the course of the Nineteen Eighties. Matthews retired with 69.5 profession sacks, 27 compelled fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries. He additionally led the NFL in tackles on 4 completely different events. Considered one of Matthews’ greatest seasons didn’t end in a Professional Bowl choice. In 1984, Matthews led the league with 126 tackles whereas additionally posting 12 sacks and three compelled fumbles. Matthews’ play was a significant purpose why the Browns appeared in three AFC Championship Video games from 1986-89.
Whereas he has but to obtain the decision to Canton, Matthews was inducted into the Browns’ Ring of Honor in 2019.
11. DE L.C. Greenwood
Crew: Steelers (1969-81)
A key member of Pittsburgh’s “Metal Curtain” protection, Greenwood earned six Professional Bowl nods (and two first-team All-Professional honors) from 1973-79. A menacing go rusher, Greenwood sacked Roger Staubach a report 4 occasions within the Steelers’ Tremendous Bowl X victory over the Cowboys. The 6-fo-6 Greenwood additionally had a penchant for batting down passes; he did that on three events in the course of the Steelers’ Tremendous Bowl IX win over the Vikings.
10. LB Randy Gradishar
Crew: Broncos (1974-83)
With respect to Tom Jackson and Rod Smith, Gradishar stays the best Bronco who continues to be ready for his place in Canton. The 14th total decide within the 1974 draft, Gradishar earned Professional Bowl and All-Professional honors in 1977 whereas main Denver’s “Orange Crush” protection, a unit that helped spearhead the Broncos’ first Tremendous Bowl look. Gradishar earned 5 extra Professional Bowl alternatives (in addition to one other All-Professional nod) throughout his ultimate six seasons with the Broncos. A member of the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, Gradishar is credited with over 2,000 tackles throughout his 10-year profession.
9. CB Ken Riley
Crew: Bengals (1969-83)
Riley retired with 65 interceptions, which is tied for the fifth-highest complete in NFL historical past. The participant Riley is commonly in comparison with is Charles Woodson, who will obtain a gold jacket this summer season. An extremely constant participant all through his profession, Riley picked off at the very least 4 passes 9 completely different occasions, tallying a career-high 9 interceptions in 1976. A key member of the Bengals’ 1981 AFC championship workforce, Riley returned a league-high three interceptions for touchdowns throughout his ultimate two seasons. In 1983, his ultimate NFL season, the 36-year-old Riley recorded eight interceptions (returning two for scores) whereas incomes his first profession All-Professional choice.
8. LB Zach Thomas
Crew: Dolphins (1996-07); Cowboys (2008)
The Dolphins have a slew of Canton-worthy gamers who nonetheless have not gotten the decision. Amongst these gamers are former offensive lineman Bob Kuechenberg, receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton and working again Ricky Williams. Thomas, a seven-time Professional Bowler and five-time All-Professional, is on the high of that checklist. A former fifth-round decide, Thomas was one of many NFL’s best gamers throughout his dozen seasons in Miami. Thomas, who led the NFL in tackles on two separate events, retired with 1,734 profession tackles, 20.5 sacks, 17 interceptions, 48 passes defensed, 16 compelled fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. His play helped the Dolphins make the playoffs annually from 1997-01.
7. WR Torry Holt
A seven-time Professional Bowler and member of the NFL’s All-2000s Crew, Holt performed an integral function on the Rams‘ 1999 championship workforce. The league’s main receiver on two separate events, Holt was the Rams’ No. 1 receiver when St. Louis made a return journey to the Tremendous Bowl in 2001.
6. DL Richard Seymour
Groups: Patriots (2001-08); Raiders (2009-12)
The sixth total decide within the 2001 draft, Seymour helped the Patriots seize their first of six Tremendous Bowls throughout his rookie season. Seven years later, Seymour left New England as a three-time champion, five-time Professional Bowler and three-time All-Professional. Seymour wasn’t finished, nonetheless, including two extra Professional Bowl alternatives to his resume throughout his 4 years with the Raiders. Seymour, who was just lately voted into the Patriots’ Corridor of Fame, acquired a letter on his behalf to the Corridor of Fame voters by former coach Invoice Belichick.
“Richard Seymour was unquestionably one among our key gamers,” Belichick wrote, “and I don’t consider we’d have received three championships with out him.”
5. OL Joe Jacoby
Crew: Washington (1981-93)
A key member of the “Hogs,” Jacoby helped Washington win every of its three Tremendous Bowl titles. A Professional Bowler every season from 1983-86, Jacoby’s blocking helped John Riggins rush for a then Tremendous Bowl report in Washington’s win over Miami in Tremendous Bowl XVII. A member of the NFL’s All-Nineteen Eighties Crew, Jacoby helped shield Tremendous Bowl MVPs Doug Williams and Mark Rypien in Tremendous Bowls XXII and XXVI.
4. RB Roger Craig
Groups: 49ers (1983-90); Raiders (1991); Vikings (1992-93)
The one working again on this checklist, Craig performed an integral function within the 49ers’ success in the course of the Nineteen Eighties. A four-time Professional Bowler and member of the NFL’s All-Nineteen Eighties Crew, Craig turned the primary participant in league historical past to have 1,000 dashing and receiving yards in the identical season (1985). A 3-time Tremendous Bowl champion, Craig turned the primary participant to attain three touchdowns in a Tremendous Bowl in the course of the 49ers’ win over the Dolphins in Tremendous Bowl XVI.
3. WR Reggie Wayne
Crew: Colts (2001-14)
A six-time Professional Bowler from 2006-10 and in 2012, Wayne led the NFL in receiving yards in 2007. His 53-yard landing catch in the course of the earlier yr’s Tremendous Bowl helped the Colts win the franchise’s first Tremendous Bowl following their transfer from Baltimore to Indianapolis. Wayne was Peyton Manning’s No. 1 receiver when the Colts made it again to the Tremendous Bowl in 2009. And regardless of Manning’s departure in 2012, a 34-year-old Wayne earned Professional Bowl honors that season whereas catching passes from a rookie quarterback named Andrew Luck.
2. OT Tony Boselli
Crew: Jaguars (1995-01)
Boselli would have already got a bronze bust if an damage did not finish his profession after simply 91 regular-season video games. However when he was wholesome, the primary draft decide in Jaguars historical past was arguably the most effective left offensive deal with within the enterprise. A five-time Professional Bowler and three-time All-Professional from 1996-00, Boselli helped lead the Jaguars to AFC title sport appearances in 1996 and in 1999.
1. WR Cliff Department
Crew: Raiders (1972-85)
The best deep menace of his period, the speedy Department earned 4 straight Professional Bowl alternatives and three consecutive All-Professional nods. He led the NFL in receiving as soon as throughout throughout that span whereas pacing the league in landing catches on two separate events. A mannequin of consistency, Department continued to supply effectively into his 30s. At age 35, he performed an integral function within the Raiders‘ 38-9 win over Washington in Tremendous Bowl XVIII; his 50-yard catch early within the sport arrange his 12-yard landing reception.
One of the vital productive receivers in NFL historical past, Department performed a key function in all three of the Raiders’ Tremendous Bowl wins. After a Professional Bowl season on the Raiders’ first Tremendous Bowl workforce in 1976, his two landing catches in Tremendous Bowl XV propelled the Raiders to a 27-10 win over the Eagles in 1980. Department flourished whereas taking part in with quarterbacks Ken Stalber and Jim Plunkett.