Buying or Selling Notable NFL Players as Future Pro Football Hall of Famers

Brandon HolsteinFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2013

Buying or Selling Notable NFL Players as Future Pro Football Hall of Famers

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    Somewhat similar to ancient Greek mythology, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was established as a way to immortalize those players who display super humanistic qualities in the game of football.

    The modern-day Zeus of their time (if you will); players earning this ultimate level of recognition are to be forever enshrined and talked about as if they were once the rulers of their time.

    OK, so maybe it’s not quite that intense, and I may be reaching a little bit here, but do please hear me out. 

    While the Pro Football Hall Fame is obviously not some sort of myth, it is in fact a celebration of sorts to commemorate the most decorated players in NFL history—players who transcended the game and whose dominance was so powerful beyond measure that they would likely be some of the greatest we have ever seen play regardless of what era they played in.

    As it currently stands today there are 273 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seven more will be entering this prestigious fraternity this upcoming Sunday, moving that overall number up to 280 by the end of the weekend.

    Certainly, numbers like that put things in perspective—seeing as the NFL has had literally thousands of players at one point come through its doors—however, putting former players aside, just exactly which of today's notable NFL stars do you buy into as being future Pro Football Hall of Famers and which do you not?

    Odds are, of the names on the list that follows, only a handful of them will actually one day realize and be able to call themselves thisnonetheless, it is a rather relevant topic with plenty of names to discuss.

    So, let us begin.

     

    *All stats and information gathered in this article is courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.*

     

     

Honorable Mentions

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    QB Eli Manning, New York Giants

    Two Super Bowl wins against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Also sports the last name of Manning. Need I say more?

    Verdict: Buying 

     

    QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

    The least impressive to this point in a strong 2004 quarterback draft class, Philip Rivers has his work cut out for him if he is to catch up with Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and some of the other players currently ahead of him.

    Verdict: Selling

     

    WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    Make no doubt about it, Larry Fitzgerald has been hampered by poor and inconsistent quarterback play for much of his career. Nonetheless, he's still produced and proved he's a quality talent with Hall of Fame potential. 

    Verdict: Buying

     

    WR Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

    Probably pound-for-pound one of the toughest and most fearless players to ever play the game, Steve Smith is without a doubt deserving of Hall of Fame status but unfortunately will likely never reach this pinnacle. 

    Verdict: Selling

     

    WR Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

    Absolutely love the player, but it's hard to make a case for a guy who may not even be the best receiver on his team.

    Verdict: Selling

     

    DE Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

    Something tells me Julius Peppers still has a couple of quality years left in him, and that scares me as a Detroit Lions fan.

    Verdict: Buying

     

    DE John Abraham, Arizona Cardinals

    Pains me to say this, but some players just never get the respect they probably deserve. I fear this to be the case with John Abraham, who brought so much energy and passion to the game for so many years. 

    Verdict: Selling

     

    DE Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers

    It's hard to stand out and make an impact playing as a 3-4 defensive end, but that is exactly what Justin Smith has done. Unfortunately, much like Abraham before him, Smith will have a hard sell when making his case.

    *A Super Bowl win this year could just change all that.

    Verdict: Selling (for now)

     

    DT Richard Seymour, Free Agent

    He's been dominant and made an impact wherever he's gone and even succeeded in Oakland. That alone is nearly enough to claim him worthy. Even future Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Charles Woodson cannot completely say the same. Woodson will, however, be getting his second chance at redemption.

     Verdict: Buying

     

    LB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

    Coming off a fresh Super Bowl win and now having a clean bill of health, Suggs is now set to take on the role of defensive leader with Ray Lewis out of town. Something tells me his best is yet to come.

    Verdict: Buying

     

    S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Injuries have robbed him much of his time, but there is little doubting how great of an impact he has had on two Super Bowl winning teams. Perhaps the greatest ball-hawk to ever roam the field outside of Ed Reed. 

    Verdict: Buying

RB Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons

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    Steven Jackson's team and city may have changed this offseason, but outside of that, nearly everything has remained constant throughout this veteran's impressive nine-year NFL career.

    For instance, his eight straight seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing makes him one of only six players in NFL history to accomplish that same feat.

    He joined names like Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Thurman Thomas and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players to have at least eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. 

    In fact, it is that model of consistency that has allowed four of these five members to establish themselves as Hall of Fame running backs already. Tomlinson, on the other hand, figures to be a first-ballot member as soon as he becomes eligible in 2017. 

    The other impressive aspect of Jackson's career to remember is the fact that he has accomplished all of this while also playing on some rather pedestrian NFL teams. 

    Remembering that between the seasons of 2004 and 2012, the St. Louis Rams were a combined 44-99 overall. Or, in other words, they averaged about five wins and 11 losses each season during Jackson's time as a Ram.  

    It's records like this that made his departure from St. Louis all the more easier; however, that does not mean he is not still well-respected and well-liked within that community.

    After all, he consistently was the team's most reliable option and was generally the only legitimate offensive threat the team had at its disposal. Making his 4.2 yards-per-carry average all the more impressive for a player who consistently faced more men in the box and took on his fair share of hits as the team's feature back over all those years. 

    Now 30, Jackson is entering the final phase of his career but still has a lot to offer his new NFL team—the Atlanta Falcons.

    His 2,395 career carries are high and good for 25th most in the history of the NFL; however, while his breaking point is likely looming, Jackson's new three-year contract with a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl could ultimately end up being his ticket into Canton.

     

    Verdict: Buying

WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

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    Nearly polar opposite from Jackson's situation while with the Rams, Reggie Wayne's team's success has been nothing short of spectacular since being drafted in the first round out of the University of Miami back in 2001. 

    Over this 12-year span, the Indianapolis Colts have made the playoffs and experienced at least 10 regular-season victories an incredible 10 times. In fact, only in 2001 and 2011 did the Colts fail to make the playoffs, and the team's 128-64 record over that time span is nothing short of truly remarkable. 

    Certainly, Wayne's dominance during this era had a large part to do with that, but skeptics point to playing with Peyton Manning and alongside Marvin Harrison as one of the bigger reasons why Wayne is just a mere 32 receptions shy of 1,000 for his career. 

    Currently, Wayne also sits at 14th overall in terms of career reception yards with 13,063, and his seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons prior to 2011 puts him up there with some of the game's best.

    However, with that being said, Wayne's doubters also like to point to only having led the league once in yards receiving during his career (2007) as another big detractor to his case.

    Especially when you consider that between the years of 2006 and 2012, the Colts offense ranked in the top six or higher for number of passing attempts in five out of seven seasons. 

    No one can deny these somewhat inflated Wayne's overall numbers, so the question then becomes how much of Wayne's success do you attribute to the system he played in and players he's played with?

    Surely some, if not most, of the credit has to go to Wayne, but one can't help but also notice the current logjam of receivers waiting to hear and have their name forever enshrined.

    With players like Andre Reed, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Terrell Owens, Hines Ward, Randy Moss and many more still awaiting entry in the coming years, Wayne could be in store for a rather long wait. 

    So long of a wait, in fact, that you could even say that he may never get in. But I guess that all depends on what side of the fence you find yourself on?

     

    Verdict: Selling

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ben Roethlisberger's NFL playing career to this point has been nothing short of successful, but that does not mean he has always earned the respect he probably deserves.

    Having played in three Super Bowls and won two of them by the age of 31, Roethlisberger is currently the youngest active quarterback in the NFL today with at least two world championships to his name. 

    In addition to his two Super Bowl rings, Roethlisberger is also one of the winningest playoff quarterbacks of all time.

    Sporting an impressive 10-4 overall record, Roethlisberger already possesses a better career playoff win percentage than notable quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco. 

    No, he doesn't have the four Super Bowl titles to his name, like Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw quite yet. However, Roethlisberger has already outdone this Steelers legend in many other notable categories.

    For instance, Roethlisberger's 29,844 career passing yards are already good for the 37th most all time and nearly 2,000 more than Bradshaw produced in his entire career. 

    Taking into account that Big Ben probably has at least five more playing years left, barring injuries, there's no telling just how far this gap could spread across the board. 

    After all, to this point in his career Big Ben has averaged right around 3,300 yards passing and 21 touchdowns per NFL season.

    Spreading that across five more seasons, not only will Roethlisberger surpass Bradshaw in just about every statistical category, but it will also put him at or near the top 10 overall in terms of career passing yards and passing touchdowns.

    Undoubtedly, longevity will be key for Big Ben, as will keeping up with his current pace, but if there is one thing Roethlisberger can do to fully cement his name, it would be by winning one last Super Bowl.

    After all, doing so would nearly lock in his eventual enshrinement by placing himself in one of the most exclusive clubs for all of eternity. 

    Which would be as one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to bring his team at least three championships during the course of their NFL careers (Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Troy Aikman).

     

    Verdict: Buying

DE Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is one of those players whose personality is seemingly larger than lifeand so is his NFL game. 

    Ever since his rookie season in 2004, Allen has been terrorizing quarterbacks and straight up demoralizing left tackles with a persistently aggressive pass-rushing style that all great edge-rushers seem to possess. 

    In fact, his tendency to leave it all out on the field is probably his most distinguishable characteristic and just one of the many reasons why he has consistently ranked toward the top of the NFL sack chart in each of the past nine seasons.

    After all, it was just two short seasons ago when Allen nearly broke the single-season sack record set by Michael Strahan with 22 sacks—a mere one sack away from owning this rather illustrious all-time record.

    Nonetheless, there's more than just one nearly historical 2011 season that has Allen's name up there with some of the all-time greats. 

    For instance, his 117 career sacks is already good for 16th all time and puts him in a position that is good enough for second among active NFL players. 

    John Abraham with 122 sacks takes that honor for now, but Allen is only 31 years old to Abraham's 35. It's not too crazy to think this stat could be changing quite soon.

    After all, in nine NFL seasons, Allen has already produced 10 or more sacks in seven of them, including six straight.

    On top of that, he's already led the league twice in sacks and is also a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro as well. 

    Numbers and accolades like that stand out plenty, but if there is one stat that really makes his case for "The Hall," it would be the fact that Allen is also one of just three current of former NFL players to average at least 13 sacks per season. 

    Who are the other two names on that list?

    Why, none other than the "Minister of Defense" himself—Reggie White—and current Dallas Cowboys superstar DeMarcus Ware. 

    While these are clearly two names Allen likely relishes to be sharing company with, that does not mean his table is completely set when it comes to his seat at the dinner table of all dinner tables. 

    To earn his keep, Allen doesn't necessarily need to step his game up; rather, he just needs to keep on doing what he's been doing.

    Which, if you ask me, is really quite simple: Rack up 10 sacks, repeat.

    Do that for the next three to four years and not only is Allen nearly a complete lock, but he also likely finds himself in the top five all time for sacks over the course of an NFL career.

    Not too shabby for a guy taken with a fourth-round pick out of tiny Idaho State.

     

    Verdict: Buying

WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

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    Humble and hardworking. Those are probably two of the best adjectives you can use to describe Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.

    Since coming into the league out of the University of Miami in 2003, Johnson has always been the type of player to leave everything out on the field.

    Not one to trash-talk, Johnson is a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who has led the league in receiving yards twice in his NFL career, while also owning three of the top 25 highest single-season receiving yard marks in league history.

    Then there's also this—Andre Johnson is the only player in the NFL to have at least 60 catches in each of his first eight seasons. 

    Wide receivers who come as consistent as No. 80 are hard to find, but with that being said, there are also a few things potentially holding Johnson back from ever hearing his name forever immortalized in Canton. 

    One, and perhaps the biggest, is his injury history.

    In the past three years, Johnson has missed a total of 12 games due to injury. Although he is one of only two players to average at least 80 yards receiving per game in his career, not being able to suit up is one of the things that poses a big threat to Johnson's overall candidacy. 

    The other two things potentially holding him back is the fact that at age 32, Johnson still does not have a Super Bowl ring; and also the fact that while his 56 career touchdown receptions are respectable, they are a far ways away from being anything special.

    What Johnson has going for him is his consistency, attitude and work ethic. He's probably at least three more solid seasons of 60-plus receptions and 1,000 yards receiving away from completely strengthening his case. But, even then, nothing is completely guaranteed. 

    Much like Wayne, Johnson must finish his career out strong. While winning a Super Bowl isn't necessarily a prerequisite for enshrinement amongst wide receivers, it also never hurts to have one.

    After all, we all know that players with titles under their belts are seen as more valuable. While Johnson hasn't necessarily had a viable threat opposite him for perhaps his entire career, he would probably be the first to tell you that this is no excuse.

    Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I still can't find a reason why not to believe in No. 80. Something deep down tells me he still has plenty of tricks left up his sleeve. 

     

    Verdict: Buying

DE Dwight Freeney, San Diego Chargers

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    Former Indianapolis Colts star Dwight Freeney is on the downside of his career, but there is little doubting he was once perhaps the best of his era.

    Blessed with a quick first step and stocky compact build, Freeney made a living taking down quarterbacks for over a decade while with the Colts.

    Known best for his lightning-fast spin move and vast array of pass-rush knowledge and repertoire, Freeney has gobbled up an impressive 107.5 sacks over the course of his 11-year career. 

    That mark puts him at 22nd all time, and while he is now a member of the San Diego Chargers at 33 years of age, there's no doubt that he will always hold a special place in the hearts of Colts fans everywhere. 

    After all, it was Freeney who brought the team 10 or more sacks in seven out of 11 NFL seasons. Also within that same time, Freeney was a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, teaming up with Robert Mathis to form what was perhaps one of the best pass-rushing duos this league has ever known. 

    Nonetheless, what Colts fans will probably always remember about Freeney wasn't just that he was consistently bringing down the quarterback with his relentless pass rush. But rather his grit, determination and toughness to play in the team's 2010 Super Bowl game after tearing a ligament in his ankle just a few weeks prior. 

    Stories like that endear fans to athletes. While the team came up short in the loss to the New Orleans Saints, Freeney will always be remembered for that performance by not just playing, but for also collecting a sack. 

    Look, we all understand that Freeney may not have the most noteworthy Hall of Fame credentials or numbers quite yet, but one thing he does have left is time.

    Yes, he's only averaged just over six sacks a season for the past two years, but doing that over the next two to three years in San Diego or elsewhere would catapult him at or near the top 10 of all time. 

    Which, if you pair with his 44 career forced fumbles, puts Freeney is some rather rarefied air amongst some of the greatest sack artists who also made an even bigger impact by forcing turnovers. 

     

    Verdict: Buying

RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

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    The Hall of Fame resume for San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is impressive, but the question is will it be impressive enough when it’s all said and done?

    At 30 years of age, Gore is entering what many consider to be the breaking point for NFL running backs. Like a car approaching or surpassing the 100,000-mile mark, Gore’s tread would seem to be wearing thin, but that may, in fact, not even be his biggest issue moving forward.

    His biggest problem could be the fact that the team already seems to be preparing and budgeting for his wheels to completely fall off.

    After all, in the past three NFL drafts the team has taken some rather notable collegiate running backs. In 201,1 it was Kendall Hunter; 2012 saw LaMichael James, and in this past draft, the team took former Gamecock star Marcus Lattimore—who, like Gore, has dealt with his own pair of devastating knee injuries.

    Obviously, this is not to say Gore won't or can’t expand on his already impressive numbers; which include 11,470 total yards from scrimmage (60th all time) and at least 1,000 yards rushing in six out of eight NFL seasons.

    However, with so many mouths to feed and so many talented players nipping at his heels, it could be just a matter of time or simple injury before Gore finds himself on the outside looking in.

    It goes without saying how much Gore has meant to his team, but even some of his most devout fans will be the first to tell you that No. 21 is not quite yet deserving of the most distinguishing honor a football player can receive.

    Plus, it's not like Gore is the only 49ers running back deserving and in the discussion to be inducted.

    For simple comparison sake, legendary 49ers running back Roger Craig has three Super Bowl titles to his name and nearly 2,000 more all-purpose yards than Gore and has still not gained entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Yes, Gore still has time to win a title, and yes his overall numbers will likely surpass Craig’s when it’s all said and done, but even then it may be too little too late.

    By that time, it all depends on just how involved Gore is, and even that does not appear to be something that is all but guaranteed. 

    Take it for what it’s worth, but at the end of the day, I think it becomes more about actual opportunities than talent when it comes to Gore’s future Hall of Fame chances.

    But hey, maybe that's just me.

     

    Verdict: Selling

TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten so good when he does everything so extremely well.

    He’s been mentioned as the best all-around tight end for both his blocking and receiving skills, as well as selected to an impressive eight Pro Bowls, while also being named a two-time All-Pro.

    Certainly one would expect numbers like that to be associated with a player much older in age, but the surprising thing is Witten has already accomplished all this in just 10 short seasons.

    Meaning, at 31 years of age, Witten still has plenty of time left to add on to his already rather impressive resume and list of accomplishments.

    Currently, Witten’s 806 career receptions put him at 26th all time—a number that is just nine less than the total of Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe. However, that’s not the craziest partthat’s his ranking with wide receivers included. 

    When you exclude wide receivers, Witten’s reception total is good enough for No. 3 all time amongst tight ends, and his 110 receptions this past season set the all-time single-season record.

    Look, averaging 80 receptions a season is nearly unheard of for a wide receiver, let alone a tight end. The fact that Witten has been this consistently good for this long makes him perhaps one of the greatest to ever play the game and a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer when he does so choose to retire.

    Adding a Super Bowl would obviously be nice, but at this juncture, it may not even matter. Witten’s durability and innate ability to get open to exploit holes in zone coverage is second nature and will have him playing well into his mid-to-late 30s.

    Which, if that happens, there’s no telling just how high his overall numbers could get. He’s already a near shoo-in on numbers alone at this rather early juncture in his somewhat young career.

     

    Verdict: Buying