The ultimate goal of most NFL players is to one day make the Hall of Fame. It seems like once a veteran plays at an elite level for a large period of time, he gets recognition for his high level of play on a yearly basis, and/or appears in Super Bowls or multiple playoff games they are deemed to be ‘future Hall of Famers. Is there an exact science to what makes a player qualify as a Hall of Famer? Can someone be deemed a Hall of Famer or are their levels to how likely a player is to end up in Canton?
Here are the four levels that could define a player that could be considered one day for the Hall of Fame:
Definite Hall of Fame- This player is guaranteed to wear the golden jacket and get a bust in Canton. He might even get voted in on the first ballot.
Looking like it- The player isn’t a lock for the Hall of Fame, but has been successful enough to be in the conversation. He could very well be a Hall of Famer, but it could be debated that the player shouldn’t be. This player has an impressive resume and is one or two additions to their resume away ensuring their spot in Canton.
Just missed the cut- Some veteran players just aren’t Hall of Famers. A player could play at a high level for an extended player of time, they could even be one of the best in franchise history at their position. But if they are not one of the best of all time or even one of the best in the league at their position they are not Hall of Fame players. Depending on the age of the player this isn’t set in stone, the player might not be Hall of Fame material yet.
Give it time- There are a lot of young players in the league that could have a future in Canton, but it is too early to say. A lot of the league’s top talent are young players. It might too soon to label these players as the best who have ever played the game, but if they keep it up at the rate they currently are, they will enter the Hall of Fame conversation.
Here is how the careers of current players in the NFC East can be defined:
” * ” are players who have retired this offseason
Definite Hall of Fame: Travis Fredrick*, Zack Martin
Looking like it: Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott, Gerald McCoy, Mike McCarthy
Just missed the cut: Andy Dalton, Demarcus Lawerence, Dontari Poe, Aldon Smith, Sean Lee, Greg Zuerlein, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Give it time: Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott
After an off-year the Dallas Cowboys retooled and are looking to become a playoff contender once more and become a threat in the NFC again. The Cowboys are one of two teams with 15 former Pro Bowlers on their roster in 2020 (Baltimore Ravens). The Cowboys are trying to contend as soon as possible.
Arguably the biggest loss for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason was Travis Fredrick due to retirement. Fredrick was the anchor for the Cowboys offensive line for many years. Once a puzzling draft selection by Dallas, Fredrick blossomed into a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Pro Bowler during his career. Though he was only in the league for a short period of time Fredrick was considered by most to be the best center in the league throughout his career. That is why one day he will eventually be a member of the Hall of Fame.
The following season after Fredrick was drafted the Dallas Cowboys selected Zack Martin instead of Texas legend Johnny Manziel. Rumor has it Stephen Jones took the Manziel card out of his father’s hand on draft night and convinced him to take Martin instead. That was an amazing decision because Martin revolutionized the Cowboys running game and offense. Since his addition, the Cowboys have had three league-leading rushers and is seen by many to have the best offensive line in football. Since getting drafted Martin has made the Pro Bowl and been an All-Pro every year. He is also a member of the 2010s All-Pro team. Around the league, Martin is considered the best guard in football not named Quenton Nelson. Martin is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
The third superstar first-round selection on the Dallas Cowboys’ offense this past season was Tyron Smith. In his prime Smith was regarded as the best left tackle in football. However, now Smith is seen as a top-three offensive tackle. He has made the past seven Pro Bowls, is a four-time All-Pro and a member of the 2010s All-Decade Team. Smith seems like he will one day be a Hall of Famer, but he just needs a couple more great years to solidify his place.
The Cowboys have not made many big splash free-agent signings in recent years, but this past offseason the Cowboys signed Gerald McCoy to fortify the interior of their defensive line. McCoy spent nine years in Tampa Bay where he went to six Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro four times (three-time First Team All-Pro. He also played well in Carolina this past season. These next few years in Dallas are big for McCoy because that will make or break his Hall of Fame case. If McCoy plays well in primetime games for Dallas he will one end up in Canton one day.
Before the 2019-20 season, the Cowboys made Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid running back in football. In his short time in the league, Elliot has earned his fair share. Since 2016 he has led the league in rushing twice and had at least 1,300 yards on the ground every year except the season he was suspended six games. That season Zeke did almost reached the 1,000-yard mark though. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. If Zeke keeps up this production for a few more seasons he will be in the Hall of Fame.
This might be Mike McCarthy’s first year in Dallas, but he has already accomplished a lot in his career. He was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers for 13 years. McCarthy won a Super Bowl with the Packers back in 2010-11. He also has the seventh most wins among active coaches. McCarthy has a 10-8 playoff record and made it to the playoffs nine times over his head coaching career. McCarthy brought the Packers to 4 NFC Championships and should be given more credit for developing Aaron Rodgers into the quarterback he is today. If he has any type of major success in Dallas, McCarthy will cement his place into the Hall of Fame.
Just like McCarthy, Andy Dalton had a long career elsewhere before landing in Dallas this offseason. However Dalton has not had near the success that McCarthy had. Dalton was the Bengals starting quarterback for nine years. He is a three-time Pro Bowler. Dalton is second in most Bengals’ franchise quarterback categories, but he is first in passing touchdowns in Bengals’ history. He will go down as one of the Bengals all-time great quarterbacks, but not a Hall of Famer.
Demarcus Lawerence has been the Dallas Cowboys top edge rusher for some time now. He was drafted the fill the void left by Demarcus Ware. Lawerence was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and 2018. He was also a Second Team All-Pro in 2017. Though he is considered one of the best edge rushers in the league, he has not done enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Joining Lawerence along the defensive front this season will be Dontari Poe and Aldon Smith. Poe was considered one of the best nose tackles in the league a couple of seasons ago making two Pro Bowls and being named a Second Team All-Pro in 2013. But for the past couple of years, Poe has just been average. Smith was considered one of the best edge rushers in the league early in his career breaking the record for most sacks in the first two seasons of a career (33.5). However, Smith fell off after multiple suspensions and returning to the league for the first time since 2015-16. Neither Poe or Smith are going to be considered for the Hall of Fame one day
Sean Lee has been the quarterback of the Cowboys’ defense for a decade now. In his prime, Lee was as good as any linebacker in the NFL. He was the difference between the Cowboys defense being competitive and being walked all over. The biggest issue over the course of Lee’s career has been his health. He has had issues staying healthy throughout his career. During his best years, Lee was a two-time Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro in 2016. He might go down as one of the best linebackers in the history of the franchise, but not a Hall of Famer.
The Cowboys signed Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein to compete for their kicking job. Zuerlein has been a reliable kicker with a big leg for a couple of seasons for the Rams. He was a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro in 2017. Zuerlein has been better than average, but is not an all-time great kicker. Therefore he will not be in the Hall of Fame. Like Zuerlein, the Cowboys signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix this offseason. Also like Zuerlein, Clinton-Dix has been an All-Pro and Pro Bowler once in his career in 2016. Since then he has been average and has played for four teams in three years. Unless something major changes in his career he will not be making the Hall of Fame.
The two most exciting pieces of the Cowboys’ defense are linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Smith went to his first Pro Bowl this past season and is receiving recognition as one of the best inside linebackers in football. There is a case for Smith being the fastest linebacker in league. If his play keeps getting better and he adds to his resume he could be in Canton when all is said and done. Vander Esch was the Cowboys first-round pick in 2018. In his rookie season, he surprised the league when he emerged as one of the better linebackers in the league going to the Pro Bowl and getting named a Second Team All-Pro. After missing part of this past season due to injury Vander Esch did not receive such honors. If he could maintain this success for an extended period of time he could one day be in the Hall of Fame ballot.
Amari Cooper helped transform the Cowboys offense into one of the best in the league. Cooper gave the Cowboys a true number one wide receiver to take attention away from the running game. He has made the Pro Bowl in every one of his five seasons except for 2017. If Cooper continues his success and adds a few All-Pro recognitions to his resume he can be considered for the Hall of Fame later in his career.
One of the biggest stories in the NFL currently is whether Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will come to terms on an agreement for an extension. Since entering the league as a fourth-round draft pick Prescott has wowed the league with fantastic play. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and has been to the Pro Bowl two times. He is considered one of the league’s top quarterbacks right now and has one of the highest winning percentages among starting quarterbacks. If Prescott has more success in the playoffs and continues the high level of play he will one day be considered for the Hall of Fame.
New York Giants
Definite Hall of Fame: Eli Manning*
Looking like it:
Just missed the cut: Golden Tate, Nate Solder
Give it time: Saquon Barkley
The New York Giants have been in the middle of a rebuild for some time now. Under new head coach Joe Judge it looks like the team is starting to get the pieces into place to be competitive in the near future. However, for now, the Giants are going into next season with a very young roster without many veterans at all let alone all-time greats.
Towards the end of his career, there was a lot of debate on whether Eli Manning should be considered a Hall of Famer or not. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and MVP. He also went to four Pro Bowls over the course of his career. But he was never considered to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL and he has led the league in interceptions on three separate occasions. There are valid arguments for either side. But beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl isn’t easy and to do it twice deserves some recognition. That is why Manning will be in the Hall of Fame.
Golden Tate has been a very solid receiver for the majority of his career. He’s never been considered elite by any standard, but is a valuable piece to the teams he has played for. He won the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013-14 and made his first Pro Bowl with the Detroit Lions the following season. That is not enough to push Tate into Hall of Fame territory.
When Nate Solder signed with the Giants in 2018 it made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in football. He is a two-time Super Bowl Champion during his time with the New England Patriots. But has never been to a Pro Bowl or been named to an All-Pro Team. Solder has been a complete flop since signing with the Giants and is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
Someone who could develop into a Hall of Fame player is running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was the best running back prospect to come out of college in a long time. In his rookie season, he ran for over 1,300 yards and had 11 rushing touchdowns. That got him a Pro Bowl nod and won him Rookie of the Year. Even this past season after missing three games with an ankle sprain, Barkley managed to rush for over 1,000 yards. If Barkley stays healthy and plays at an elite level for the majority of his career he can one day be a Hall of Famer.
Definite Hall of Fame: Darren Sproles*
Looking like it: Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz
Just missed the cut: Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Brooks, Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson, Darius Slay
Give it time: Lane Johnson, Carson Wentz
Only two years removed from their Super Bowl win, most of the Eagles roster from that season is still intact. The team has made the playoffs the past two seasons as well only to get bounced out very early. The Philadelphia Eagles are trying to contend this next year and are loaded with the veterans on their roster to do that.
When people think of versatile gadget running backstage ideal model is Darren Sproles. Sproles was a threat in the passing game, running game, and special teams. Sproles 19,705 career scrimmage yards ranks among the all-time greats. Though he is only a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro (two-time First Team) he is one of the all-time greats for what he brought to the game. He is also a member of the 2010s All-Decade Team. Offensive players try to emulate the type of player Sproles was and that is why he will be in at the Hall of Fame at some point in the future.
Though he does not get as much praise as his brother, Jason Kelce is one of the best at his position in the league currently. Kelce is a three-time Pro Bowler, three-time First Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl Champion. Many believe that Kelce has taken over the reins as the best center in football. If he keeps this play up a little longer he will be considered a Hall of Famer.
One of the scariest interior defensive linemen in the league is Fletcher Cox. He has been a Pro Bowler every year since 2015, four-time All-Pro and a Super Bowl Champion. Cox was voted to the 2010s All-Decade Team. If Cox maintains this level of play for a few more years he will be a Hall of Fame.
For a couple of seasons, the Eagles’ number one target on offense has been Zach Ertz. Ertz has made the Pro Bowl each of the past three years and has the record for most receptions in a single season by a tight end. At this pace, Ertz is on track to break more all-time tight end records and could one day reside in Canton Ohio.
The number two target on the Eagles’ offense the past couple of seasons has been Alshon Jeffrey. In his first year with the team, Jeffrey was a huge part of the Eagles’ Super Bowl run and victory. However, since then, his play has declined to the point where he could get traded or released. Jeffrey was also a Pro Bowler in 2013 and has the third-most receiving yards in Chicago Bears history. Unfortunately, that is not enough to land Jeffrey into the Hall of Fame.
DeSean Jackson has been an Eagles’ fan favorite for a while now. Philly fans were thrilled when he was traded back the Eagles last offseason. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and was a Second Team All-Pro in 2009. They might possibly retire Jackson’s number in Philadelphia, but he will not be a Hall of Famer.
In recent years Brandon Brooks has emerged as one of the better guards in football. Brooks had made the past three Pro Bowls and is a Super Bowl Champion. However, he will, unfortunately, miss next season due to an injury. Unless Brooks becomes a perennial Pro Bowler/All-Pro for the rest of his career after injury it seems unlikely that he will make the Hall of Fame.
Watching Brandon Graham play makes people think he is one of the best defensive ends in football, which is fair, but his stats do not show it. Graham has never played in a Pro Bowl or eclipsed 10 sacks in a season. However, he won a Super Bowl and was a Second Team All-Pro in 2016. That isn’t enough to be considered a Hall of Fame defensive end.
Much like a majority of the players on this list, Malik Jackson was won a Super Bowl, but it was with the Denver Broncos in 2015-16. Jackson was a Pro Bowler with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. But was never been considered one of the elite interior defensive lineman in the league. Therefore he will not be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Darius Slay has gotten recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in football in recent years. Many argue that he is the most physical and best man to man corner in the league. However, at age 29 there are only so many great years left in Slay. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 when he was tied for the league lead in interceptions (Kevin Byard). Slay has the most potential out of anybody on this list to change the narrative on his career, but he does not have much room for failure. He needs to play great from here on out if he wishes to make the Hall of Fame.
Lane Johnson is considered by most to be the best right tackle in football. He has made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons and is a Super Bowl Champion. He is considered one of the leaders of the Eagles’ offense and entire locker room. Johnson has a lot of career left and could easily make a few more Pro Bowls and even a few All-Pro teams. If that happens Johnson could be considered for the Hall of Fame.
It wouldn’t be fair to consider Dak Prescott for the Hall of Fame one day without putting Carson Wentz in that category. Though Wentz has achieved less than Prescott, he is considered to be more talented and has more upside than Prescott. The main thing keeping him on this list is his play from the 2016-17 season. Wentz was MVP worthy before he got hurt and gets credit for that Super Bowl team even though he didn’t play a snap during the playoffs that year. If he can become that player again he will potentially be considered a Hall of Famer, but if not then he’s Derek Carr.
Definite Hall of Fame: Adrian Peterson
Looking like it: Ron Rivera
Just missed the cut: Ryan Kerrigan, Thomas Davis
Give it time: Brandon Scherff, Landon Collins
The Washington Redskins have been mediocre for the better part of a decade and do not have a lot of experience on their roster. However, they do have some older players on their roster towards the end of their careers who are in house to mentor the younger guys. Who knows what to expect from the new regime in Washington in the near future?
The only no-doubt Hall of Famer on the Washington Redskins is Adrian Peterson. At age 35 Adrian Peterson is still capable of rushing for 1,000 yards. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro, Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, MVP in 2012 and holds many single-season and career running back records. Peterson will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer the first year he is eligible.
It was a shame to see Ron Rivera leave Carolina the way that he did. But before he got fired, he had a great career there. He is the Carolina Panthers’ franchise leader in wins and is a two-time Coach of the Year. If Rivera can turn around this dysfunctional franchise he will be a Hall of Fame head coach.
One of the few bright spots on the Redskins roster over the past couple of seasons has been Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is a four-time Pro Bowler and it would be shocking to see Kerrigan not go down as one of the all-time great Redskins. But he is not a Hall of Famer at this point.
This might be a surprise, but Thomas Davis is only a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. He has always been considered one of the better linebackers in the league but has never entered the conversation as one of the best. He has been a starting linebacker for 15 seasons (16 if he starts this year) which he has going for him that not many others can say they have done. It isn’t impossible for Davis to get into the Hall of Fame one day, but he might have to wait a while because he just isn’t one of the all-time greats.
Brandon Scherff is the Redskins’ best player on offense right now. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and likely would have been in the All-Pro conversation if the Redskins offensive line and team wasn’t so bad. If he keeps a high level of play he could end up in the Hall of Fame.
Landon Collins is a shocking name on this list considering he is coming off of a rough first year in Washington. This past year was the first time he missed the Pro Bowl since 2016. At age 26 it is hard to write off a player like Collins who has played at an All-Pro level before in 2016. Under new head coach, Rivera Collins can become the focal point of the Redskins’ secondary and resume being one of the best safeties in the league. If that happens Collins can be considered for the Hall of Fame one day.