After first revealing the list of 122 modern-era nominees in September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has now reduced that group down to 26 semifinalists. In January, it will be cut further down to 15 finalists before a group of four to eight enshrinees — the number is not set — will be voted on ahead of Super Bowl 56 in February.
Among those who cleared the second hurdle of reaching the semifinals are five men who at one point signed a deal with the New England Patriots. That’s 19.2 percent of the semifinalists, up from 15.6 percent during the initial round. While not all of them actually appeared in a game for the club, they are still worth taking a closer look at.
Let’s meet the former Patriots who have made the list of Hall of Fame semifinalists this year:
DT Richard Seymour, RB Fred Taylor, WR Torry Holt*, WR Reggie Wayne*, DT Vince Wilfork
*offseason member only
While Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne all signed deals with the Patriots at one point to participate in training camp, they would not enter the Hall of Fame primarily associated with the team: neither of them has played even a single down of non-preseason football for the organization. The same cannot be said about the other three semifinalists with ties to New England: Richard Seymour, Fred Taylor and Vince Wilfork.
Richard Seymour spent the first eight seasons of his 12-year career in New England and appeared in 126 games for the franchise before getting traded to the then-Oakland Raiders in 2009. He played a key role in the New England’s first three Super Bowl-winning runs, was voted to seven Pro Bowls and named to the NFL’s Team of the 2000s. He also is a member of the Patriots’ Team of the 2000s, 50th Anniversary Team and Hall of Fame. Seymour has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist the previous three years.
Fred Taylor originally joined the Patriots in 2009 after having spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He appeared in 14 combined games for the club, carrying the football 108 times for 425 yards and four touchdowns. That production, of course, is not the reason why he is a Hall of Fame semifinalist in his third year of eligibility: even before arriving in New England, he had already joined the NFL’s 10,000-yard rushing club.
Vince Wilfork was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 draft and went on to spend 11 seasons with the team. One of the best defensive tackles of his era, he appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games for New England and won two Super Bowl rings. A five-time Pro Bowler and member of the Patriots’ Teams of the 2000s and 2010s, as well as the 50th Anniversary squad, Wilfork ended his career with the Houston Texans. He has made the semifinals in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility.
CB Eric Allen, DE Jared Allen, OT Willie Anderson, CB/S Ronde Barber, WR Anquan Boldin, OT Tony Boselli, S LeRoy Butler, RB Eddie George, KR/PR Devin Hester, WR Andre Johnson, DE Robert Mathis, LB Sam Mills, WR Steve Smith, ST/WR Steve Tasker, LB Zach Thomas, WR Hines Ward, LB DeMarcus Ware, RB Ricky Watters, LB Patrick Willis, S Darren Woodson, DT Bryant Young
The former Patriots to make the semifinal round will face some stiff competition on the road to the Hall of Fame. That said the group is not as impressive overall as last year’s — one that included three sure-fire locks in Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson. While all of this year’s semifinalists certainly are worthy of Hall of Fame recognition, the door might be a bit more open for the likes of Seymour and company to go through this time around.
Patriots who failed to make the cut
WR Troy Brown, LB Tedy Bruschi, FB Larry Centers, TE Ben Coates, RB Corey Dillon, S Rodney Harrison, RB Steven Jackson, WR Chad Johnson, G Logan Mankins, LB Willie McGinest, CB Asante Samuel, G Brian Waters, WR Wes Welker, S Adrian Wilson*
*offseason member only
With only five former Patriots left standing, 14 of the 19 initial nominees have now been eliminated — a group that includes numerous franchise legends as well as players who should get serious Hall of Fame consideration in future years as well. While players such as Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest might ultimately be long-shots, Logan Mankins and Wes Welker, for example, should remain on the nominees list for years to come.
The same goes for Rodney Harrison. A semifinalist last year, the two-time Super Bowl winner and Patriots Hall of Famer did not advance to that point this year. Given his contributions to the New England dynasty both on and off the field, him being left off the list can be considered a major surprise.