The NFL and the game of football have evolved so much over the past couple of decades. There have been a few teams and many faces come and go over that time period, however there are a select few that have stood out.
Making it to the Hall of Fame is a great honor that few people have achieved. There are a handful of players currently in the NFL that are sure-fire Hall of Famers. Some of these players have been around for 15 years while others still have a few left in the tank.
This article will look at 10 current NFL players who should make the Hall of Fame when they retire.
Formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning made football relevant in Indiana, leading the Colts to six out of seven possible division titles from 2003 and 2010. The team has also appeared in two Super Bowls, beating the Chicago Bears in ’06 and losing to the Saints in ’09.
The 36-year-old has broken many different NFL records including fastest to 4,000 completions and fastest to 50,000 yards. Manning has passed for over 4,000 yards in 11 of his 13 professional seasons, is an 11-time Pro Bowler and was a member of the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team.
Linebacker Ray Lewis has been the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens defense for the past 16 seasons and has established himself as one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. With 40.5 sacks and 31 interceptions, Lewis is the quickest player to reach the 20/20 club, the 30/30 club and is the only player in the 40/30 club.
Like Manning, Lewis is also a member of the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team and has a Super Bowl MVP to his name. He also holds many records for middle linebackers including most Pro Bowls, most All-Pro selections, most games started, most interception return yards and most seasons played.
Despite having two pretty average years with the New York Jets, L.T. is someone who should definitely be in the Hall of Fame. Another member of the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team, Tomlinson has made five Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s rushing leader in both 2006 and 2007.
He had double-digit rushing touchdowns in all nine of his seasons with the San Diego Chargers, including 28 touchdowns in 2006. L.T. also has 17 receiving touchdowns in his career. Tomlinson is the only player in NFL history to have 100 receptions and rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season.
It is really a shame that the Baltimore Ravens can’t get anything done on offense because they have two sure-fire Hall of Famers on defense that would love to add a championship ring to their collection.
Safety Ed Reed has led the NFL in the interceptions category in three seasons and holds the record for longest interception return at 109 yards. Not only was he named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team, he was also a member of the Sporting News Team of the Decade (2000).
The eight-time Pro Bowler is nearing 60 career interceptions and I would be shocked if he does not make it into Canton.
Arguably the best tight end in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez will be back for one more year with the Atlanta Falcons before calling it a career. His career began back with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 and will end with the Falcons in 2013.
Tony G is the only tight end to hit 1,000 career receptions and is second only to Jerry Rice with 1,149 catches (as of January 1st). He holds five franchise records as a member of the Chiefs and nine NFL records. If Gonzalez is not in the Hall of Fame when he retires, you might as well get rid of the tight end position.
It seems like Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has won every award possible other than the Super Bowl. From Defensive player of the Year to a courage award in 2011, there is a variety of different trophies in his collection.
Urlacher has over 1,000 career tackles, 40 sacks and 20 interceptions and is the leader of the Bears' defense. It is his leadership and numbers like these that allowed him to be a part of the NFL 2000's All-Decade team.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has made history over his career as he is tied for first or is first in 40 different regular season record categories. You can also add seven playoff records on to his resume.
Brady has three Super Bowl wins in five appearances and is only one of four quarterbacks to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards. A couple more good years and he may go down as the best quarterback ever.
Formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, 38-year-old safety Brian Dawkins has been in the NFL since 1996, recording over 1,000 tackles and making nine Pro Bowls in that time span.
Dawkins is a member of the 20/20 club as well as the NFL 2000's All-Decade team. He also has over 100 pass deflections and 28 forced fumbles in his career.
The year that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had in 2011 was absolutely outstanding. Brees led New Orleans to a 13-3 record while breaking Dan Marino's record for most passing yards in a season.
As mentioned earlier, there are only four quarterbacks to ever throw for over 5,000 yards. The amazing thing about Drew Brees is that he has been able to do it twice, putting him ahead of guys like Tom Brady and Dan Marino.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu has made the Pro Bowl in seven of his nine professional seasons and was a part of the NFL 2000's All-Decade team. He was also the AP NFL defensive player of the year in 2010 and was voted on as the sixth best player in the league by his peers in the Top 100 Players of 2011 series that aired on NFL Network.
These players have changed the landscape of the National Football League and if they are not in the Hall of Fame after they retire, then there should not be a Hall of Fame.