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Hall of Fame

Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024: Predicting five modern-era inductees

"The knock." It's coming.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame unveiled its 15 modern-era finalists for the Class of 2024 back in December:

  • Eric Allen, CB
  • Jared Allen, DE
  • Willie Anderson, OT
  • Jahri Evans, OG
  • Dwight Freeney, DE
  • Antonio Gates, TE
  • Rodney Harrison, S
  • Devin Hester, PR/KR/WR
  • Torry Holt, WR
  • Andre Johnson, WR
  • Julius Peppers, DE
  • Fred Taylor, RB
  • Reggie Wayne, WR
  • Patrick Willis, LB
  • Darren Woodson, S

Up to five of those players will be revealed as Hall of Famers on Thursday night at the 13th annual NFL Honors, which will air live at 9 p.m. ET on CBS and NFL Network and stream on Paramount+ and NFL+. This has easily become one of the best parts of Super Bowl week. Who's it going to be this year? Here's my best guess.


San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, 2003-2018

He's in. You can't keep him out -- just ask the Chargers. Back in 2005, fresh off his breakout second season, Gates held out for a new contract after entering the league as an undrafted free-agent signee. The Bolts eventually signed him to a six-year deal, but not before placing him on the roster exempt list, ultimately forcing him to miss the season opener against Dallas. The Chargers lost that game, 28-24, with Drew Brees and Co. stalling inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line in the final minute. I think Gates would have made a difference there. Over the course of his career, he had 39 touchdowns on third down alone, finishing with a total of 116 receiving scores, tops all time among tight ends. Oh, and the 2005 Chargers fell short of the playoffs, finishing at 9-7.

Carolina Panthers, 2002-09, 2017-18; Chicago Bears, 2010-13; Green Bay Packers, 2014-16

He's also in. This guy was a franchise player for three different teams: the Panthers, Bears and Packers. In fact, some bitter Bears fans might say this was Peppers' greatest play for the Packers. OK, that was unfair -- especially considering the guy's extraordinary ability to take down quarterbacks. Peppers ranks fourth all time with 159.5 career sacks and is the only player in NFL history with at least 100 sacks and 10 interceptions. He also caused 52 fumbles, which is second in NFL history (trailing only Robert Mathis, who forced 54). Peppers was as dominant as they come.

Those two will hit Canton as first-ballot Hall of Famers. The rest of the class is really hard to predict. For starters, the voters need to begin breaking up the logjam at wide receiver. And I think two of those candidates will get the nod this week ...


Houston Texans, 2003-2014; Indianapolis Colts, 2015 ; Tennessee Titans, 2016

One of three players to lead the NFL in receiving yards in consecutive seasons during the Super Bowl era. The other two players on that list? Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson, two first-ballot Hall of Famers. Pretty good company to keep for Johnson, who made seven Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors twice.

St. Louis Rams, 1999-2008; Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009

There are those who say he was more of a threat on the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams than Isaac Bruce, who earned his bronze bust a few years ago. Holt led the NFL in receptions in 2003 and receiving yards in 2000 and 2003. He recorded 80-plus catches in eight consecutive seasons, making seven Pro Bowls in the process.


New Orleans Saints, 2006-2016; Green Bay Packers, 2017

This is a tough one because Willie Anderson is right there. And I won't be surprised if Anderson gets the nod. An offensive lineman is getting the Canton call -- one way or another -- and it is my conjecture that it's Evans, who earned first-team All-Pro honors in four straight seasons from 2009 through 2012, then received a second-team bid in 2013. He, unlike Anderson, was also a Super Bowl champion.


With a couple of players in this finalist pool, I wish they were Hall bound, but I've become less optimistic. Let's start with the obvious (... if you know me at all), Devin Hester. It would be awesome to have three Chicago Bears honored in the Class of 2024, with Hester, Peppers and Seniors Committee candidate Steve "Mongo" McMichael up for review. Hester is the greatest return man of all time. Who disputes this? But there is sentiment among some voters that that's just not enough.

Patrick Willis should've hit Canton years ago, but I'm done being shocked by this. If it were up to me, the inside linebacker would have been a first-ballot lock. In eight NFL seasons, he made seven Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors five(!) times. I've yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why he keeps getting excluded. Maybe this is the year voters wise up.

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