The New England Patriots will enshrine CB Raymond Clayborn, the franchise leader in interceptions, in the Patriots Hall of Fame this upcoming season. Clayborn was a finalist for the fourth time and finally defeated LB Mike Vrabel and DL Richard Seymour in the voting process.
While speaking with the media, Clayborn was gracious about his induction and acknowledged that the previous inductees (Ty Law in 2014, Willie McGinest in 2015, and Kevin Faulk in 2016) deserved to beat him in the voting. Clayborn also raised a greater question about this Patriots dynasty.
“I believe that the guys they put in earlier, the three times before this one, I agreed with them,” Clayborn said about his previous defeats as a finalist. “These guys deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. Like I mentioned numerous times to people who have asked me questions about the teams of the 2000’s – they deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I can’t understand why a Ty Law, a Tedy Bruschi, a Richard Seymour, or a Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest – everybody talks about Tom [Brady], and Tom Brady is a great quarterback, probably the greatest of all time. But he has not done it by himself.
“I look back at the 70’s when the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in about six years I believe it was. You have like 10 or 15 of those guys go into the Hall of Fame. (Editor’s note: The Steelers sent nine players from the 70s into the Hall of Fame)
“Here with the run that the Patriots have had since 2002 I believe it was when they beat the Rams in New Orleans, it just hasn’t happened and I don’t see why it has not happened, and it should happen with some of these guys like the guys that I mentioned earlier; a Bruschi, a Seymour, Ty Law.”
Clayborn notes that QB Tom Brady will obviously reach the Hall of Fame. We can throw head coach Bill Belichick into that group, too. Other than those two, which Patriots dating back to 2000 have a real chance of reaching the Hall of Fame?
I don’t think the likes Kevin Faulk, or Matt Light, or Tedy Bruschi, or Lawyer Milloy will reach the Hall of Fame because while they were incredible players in New England and some of the highest quality in the league, they weren’t ever really contending for the “Best in the League” title belt for a long enough period of time.
There are the short-term rentals like CB Darrelle Revis that will absolutely make the Hall of Fame, but Revis is clearly a Jet.
Here’s my list of players (in alphabetical order) that should make the Hall of Fame. Let me know in the comments if I missed any.
TE Rob Gronkowski. 3x First Team All Pro, 2 Super Bowl titles (2014, 2016). Like to be named to the All 2010s First Team. Gronkowski is easily the most talented tight end of his era and possibly of all time. Ranks third all time in tight end touchdowns. Eligible five years after he retires.
SS Rodney Harrison. 2x First Team All Pro, 1x Second Team All Pro, 2 Super Bowl titles (2003, 2004). First member of the “30 sack, 30 interception club” and is joined by Ray Lewis as the only two members. One of the best strong safeties of the past thirty years, but not well-liked by the voting bloc. Already eligible for the Hall.
CB Ty Law. 2x First Team All Pro, All 2000s Second Team, 3 Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003, 2004). Law was a finalist for the Hall of Fame this past year and reached the final ten, showing that he will likely get another shot moving forward. He has to hope he makes it before players like Champ Bailey (2019 eligible) and Charles Woodson (2021 eligible) enter the discussion. Already eligible for the Hall.
OG Logan Mankins. 1x First Team All Pro, 5x Second Team All Pro. Mankins didn’t win a Super Bowl, but he has a chance to be named to the All 2010s team once this decade is completed. Mankins was one of the most dominant guards of his era. Eligible in 2021.
FS Devin McCourty. 3x Second Team All Pro, 2 Super Bowl titles (2014, 2016). McCourty is a long shot as this list current stands, but he was named All Pro at both cornerback and safety, he’s incredibly well-liked (which is important for voting), and he’s positioned to rack up a couple for All Pro distinctions in the coming years with Earl Thomas coming back from an injury. Eligible five years after he retires.
WR Randy Moss. 4x First Team All Pro, All 2000s First Team. Moss didn’t win a Super Bowl either, but he ranks second in NFL history in receiving touchdowns and third in receiving yards. He is regarded as the most talented wide receiver of all time. Eligible in 2018.
DL Richard Seymour. 3x First Team All Pro, 2x Second Team All Pro, All 2000s First Team, 3 Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003, 2004). Seymour was arguably the best defender on the Patriots defense during their dynasty years and one of the best defenders in the entire league. He might not be a first ballot player, but he deserves to reach the Hall. Eligible in 2018.
K Adam Vinatieri. 3x First Team All Pro, All 2000s First Team, 3rd most points in NFL history, will likely reach 1st place with two more years in the league, 4 Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003, 2004, 2006). K Morten Anderson made the Hall this past year, opening up the door for Vinatieri and his postseason heroics to reach the pinnacle of individual accomplishment. Eligible after he retires in the year 3027.
DL Vince Wilfork. 1x First Team All Pro, 3x Second Team All Pro, 2 Super Bowl titles (2004, 2014). Wilfork was the heart of the New England defense for their title-less stretch and is well regarded as one of the greatest nose tackles in league history. His lack of statistical production might hurt him (his role was to eat space for the linebackers, not rack up stats), but most can recognize his greatness. Eligible in 2022 if he retires this year.
I also want to give a shout out to WR Wes Welker, who I don’t think will make the Hall of Fame, but was a 2x First Team All Pro and 2x Second Team All Pro, and was instrumental in changing the usage of the slot receiver position. His 6-year stretch from 2007-12 with 672 receptions and 7,605 yards from scrimmage is one of the most productive by a wide receiver in NFL history, but since it came from the slot he won’t get the credit he might deserve. He will be eligible in 2021.
The Patriots current roster is extremely young outside of Brady, which makes it difficult to include active players in my projections. CB Malcolm Butler might be able to, but he hasn’t been in the league long enough to humor a discussion. LB Dont’a Hightower needs to stay healthy to gain wider recognition.
Are there any other Patriots that you think should make the NFL Hall of Fame?