The Pro Football Hall of Fame is one step closer to finding its 2023 class. After first announcing 129 modern-era nominees in September, that list has now been reduced to 28 semifinalists. In January, it will be cut down further to 15 finalists before a group of four to eight enshrinees — the number is not set — will be voted on ahead of Super Bowl LVII in February.
Among those who cleared the second hurdle of reaching the semifinals are eight men who at one point signed a deal with the New England Patriots. That’s 28.6 percent of finalists, up from 18.6 percent during the initial round. While only six of them actually appeared in at least one game for the club, the number is still impressive and a nice stroll down memory lane.
With that said, let’s meet the former Patriots who have made the list of Hall of Fame semifinalists:
WR Henry Ellard, LB James Harrison, S Rodney Harrison, WR Torry Holt*, CB Darrelle Revis, RB Fred Taylor, WR Reggie Wayne*, DT Vince Wilfork
*offseason member only
The list of semifinalists includes some big names, with Patriots Hall of Famers Vince Wilfork and Rodney Harrison standing out among them.
Wilfork joined the Patriots as a first-round draft selection in 2004 and went on to spend 11 seasons with the team. One of the best defensive tackles of his era and a cornerstone of two Super Bowl-winning defenses, he appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games for the club. A five-time Pro Bowler and member of the Patriots’ Teams of the 2000s and 2010s as well as their 50th Anniversary squad, Wilfork finished his career with a two-year stint in Houston.
Harrison was originally acquired by the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2003. The former San Diego Chargers fifth-round draft choice would go on to spend the final six seasons of his fifteen-year career in New England, where he was a cornerstone of a team that won the Super Bowl in 2003 and 2004. A member of the Patriots’ 50th anniversary squad and Team of the 2000s, Harrison appeared in a combined 72 regular season and playoff games for the club.
The other ex-Patriots on the list of semifinalists include some short-time members of the team. Among them is Darrelle Revis, a realistic candidate to make the Hall of Fame in 2023.
Revis had one memorable season with the team. Signing a free agent deal in New England in 2014, the long-time New York Jets cornerback returned to his Pro Bowl form and helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl; he left the team after one year to return to New York.
Fred Taylor, Henry Ellard and James Harrison, meanwhile, all ended their careers after stints with the Patriots.
Longtime Jacksonville Jaguars running back Taylor spent the final two of his 13 NFL seasons in New England; he appeared in 14 games and 425 rushing yards. Ellard was in town for half a season in 1998, catching five passes for 86 yards at the tail-end of his career. Harrison’s stint with the team in 2017 was similar to Ellard’s; he ended his Patriots stint with four in-game appearances.
Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne all signed deals with the Patriots at one point in their careers as well, but they would not enter the Hall of Fame as members of the team: neither of them played even a single down of non-preseason football for the organization.
CB Eric Allen, DE Jared Allen, OT Willie Anderson, CB/S Ronde Barber, WR Anquan Boldin, G Jahri Evans, LB London Fletcher, LB Dwight Freeney, WR/RS Devin Hester, WR Andre Johnson, CB Albert Lewis, LB Robert Mathis, WR Steve Smith Sr., OT Joe Thomas, LB Zach Thomas, WR Hines Ward, LB DeMarcus Ware, RB Ricky Watters, LB Patrick Willis, S Darren Woodson
The former Patriots to make this next jump will face some strong competition on the road to the Hall of Fame, but not as big a hurdle to clear as last year’s group (which competed against the likes of Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson, among others). Nonetheless, all of the players listed here are certainly worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.
Patriots who failed to make the cut
LB Chad Brown, WR Troy Brown, LB Tedy Bruschi, FB Larry Centers, TE Ben Coates, RB Corey Dillon, P Jeff Feagles, WR Irving Fryar, 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
While eight former Patriots are left standing, 16 of the 24 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 Ben Coates might ultimately be long-shots, Logan Mankins and Wes Welker, for example, should remain on the nominees list for years to come.