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Pro Football Hall of Fame announces 2019 finalists

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released their list of finalists for the Class of 2019.

This list – trimmed from 25 semifinalists – will be subsequently cut to 10 and then to five on Super Bowl weekend. The final five will then be put to a yes/no vote with regards to their potential induction; it takes 80 percent on that final vote to achieve enshrinement.

The list of finalists includes all three ballot newcomers and a number of extremely talented holdovers.

First and foremost is tight end Tony Gonzalez. His case basically boils down to the fact that he has a strong case as the best offensive performer at his position in the history of the NFL. He’s all over the all-time leaderboards, sitting comfortably in the top-10 in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns – and not just at his position, but overall. He made 14 Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro six times. He’s probably the closest thing to a guarantee on this entire list.

Ed Reed has an awfully strong case as well. He’s widely considered to be the best safety of his generation and one of the best ever. Reed led the league in interceptions three times; his 64 career picks ranks seventh all time. Few were able to pull off big plays like him; he’s the all-time leader in interception return yardage and scored 13 non-offensive TDs in his career. He made nine Pro Bowls, was First Team All-Pro five times and was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.

The third and final newcomer is cornerback Champ Bailey. While he doesn’t have quite the burnished credentials that his fellow first-timers possess, he had one hell of a career. He “only” had 52 interceptions, but he also is the all-time leader in passes defensed – he had over 200. Bailey was one of the best cover corners of his era, with 12 Pro Bowls and three First Team All-Pro nods.

Of the 12 remaining names on the list, six are from the offensive side and four from the defensive side, along with coaches Don Coryell and Tom Flores.

Somewhat surprisingly, there are just two offensive skill position players, neither of whom is a quarterback. Running back Edgerrin James put up some remarkable numbers despite a career truncated by injury. Over his 11 years in the league (148 games in all), he managed to wind up with over 12,000 yards rushing. He also caught over 430 passes for an additional 3,300-plus and scored 91 total TDs. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce also managed to compile impressive statistics over the course of his lengthy career. He’s one of just 14 players with over 1,000 career catches and he’s third all-time with 15,292 yards. He also scored 91 TDs in his 16 years in the league.

The other four offensive finalists are all linemen – one center, one tackle and two guards. The center is Kevin Mawae, an eight-time Pro Bowler in his 16 years who was named to the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. The tackle is Tony Boselli, considered to be one of the best of his era despite a career cut short by injury. Despite playing just seven seasons (and just two games in that seventh year), he was named to five Pro Bowls and was First Team All-Pro three times. Guard Alan Faneca was an iron man of sorts, missing just two games in his 13-year career. He was named to the Pro Bowl nine times and to the All-Pro First Team six times; he was also part of the 2000s All-Decade Team. Steve Hutchinson was also a guard on that All-Decade Team. He had seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro First Team nods as well over the course of his 12 years in the league.

On the defensive side of things, we’ve got one lineman, one cornerback and a pair of safeties. Richard Seymour was one of the preeminent defensive ends in the league throughout his dozen years in the NFL. He recorded 57.5 sacks and was named to seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro First Teams. Seymour was also part of the All-Decade Team. The cornerback is another guy with New England connections. Ty Law had 53 career interceptions, leading the league twice. He returned seven of those picks for touchdowns. He was twice named First Team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl five times. The safeties are Steve Atwater and John Lynch, a pair of big, bruising players who both played with an exceeding toughness; the former made eight Pro Bowls, the latter was named nine times. Both were twice member of the All-Pro First Team.

As for who makes it? Hard to say. The election process is notoriously opaque, so there’s no way of knowing how it will play out. It’s tough to imagine Gonzalez not getting the nod, while Reed would seem to be a relatively easy choice. After that, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess. It would be nice to see the O-line backlog broken up a little, but beyond those two seemingly obvious gimmes, it could really go any direction.

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