Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates for 2019: Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Champ Bailey seem like locks

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is inducting eight new members this weekend.

Tony Gonzalez has the most career receptions and receiving yards among tight ends in NFL history.

Who are the top candidates to collect their yellow jackets in Canton next year?

First-ballot favorites

Champ Bailey, CB

In his second season, 2000, the Redskins' other cornerbacks were eventual Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Deion Sanders — quite an impressive duo to learn the tricks of the trade from. Bailey went on to claim the mantle from Sanders as the game's top shutdown corner, was a Pro Bowl selection in 12 of his 15 NFL seasons and earned membership on the NFL's 2000 all-decade team for the 2000s. Bailey's lone Super Bowl appearance — Super Bowl XLVIII following the 2013 season as a member of the Broncos, the team he spent of his career with — was his final game.

Tony Gonzalez, TE

He has the most receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) at his position (Antonio Gates has three more touchdown catches, 114 to 111). Gonzalez's receptions total is second all time only to Jerry Rice's 1,549. Gonzalez was a 14-time Pro Bowl selection (tied for most ever with Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews and Merlin Olsen) and a five-time first-team all-pro. His accomplishments make him a favorite in "greatest tight end in NFL history" conversations.

Ed Reed, S

Perhaps no player ever was more dangerous on interception returns than Reed, who owns the two longest pick sixes in league history (107 and 106 yards). In all, Reed had a record 1,590 interception return yards and scored 13 career touchdowns (seven off picks). The victory in Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 season was the final game with the Ravens for Reed (as well as 2018 inductee Ray Lewis' final career game).

Ed Reed owns the record for longest interception return for a touchdown, taking a pick six 107 yards for a TD against the Eagles in 2008.

While the aforementioned players are virtual Hall locks, a few more also are eligible for the first time in 2019 but face long odds of enshrinement: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dallas Clark, London Fletcher, Jordan Gross, Andre Gurode, Shaun Rogers, Asante Samuel and Brian Waters.


Top returning contenders

Tony Boselli, OT

The Jacksonville Jaguars' first-ever draft pick was a three-time all-pro selection and five-time Pro Bowler. However, Boselli's career was cut short in his prime after seven seasons due to injuries.

Isaac Bruce, WR

Three members of the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams offense are already in the Hall of Fame (Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace and Kurt Warner). Bruce — a four-time Pro Bowl selection — is No. 5 on the NFL's all-time career receiving yardage list.

Alan Faneca, OG

From 2001-09, Faneca earned nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections and six first-team all-pro selections while with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets (he retired after spending the following year with the Arizona Cardinals). Faneca has already been a finalist three times.

Steve Hutchinson, OG

He was a finalist in 2018, his first year of eligibility. For a healthy part of Hutchinson's career with the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, he was arguably the game's best guard (though, a strong case could be made for Alan Faneca). From 2003-09, Hutchinson went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and was a first-team all-pro five times.

Edgerrin James, RB

He led the league in rushing twice (1999 and 2000) and ranks 13th all time in career rushing yards (12,246), ahead of Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Franco Harris and Thurman Thomas.

Ty Law, CB

He was a vital contributor for four Patriots teams that reached the Super Bowl, and Law came away with three rings. A two-time all-pro and five-time Pro Bowler, Law has the same number of career interceptions (53) as Sanders.

John Lynch, S

He has been a Hall finalist five times. Lynch's rise to stardom coincided with the Buccaneers' emergence from league-wide laughingstock to Super Bowl XXXVII champions. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Lynch patrolled the secondary for a defense that featured Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

Kevin Mawae, C

He was one of the league's premier centers during a 16-year career, half of it spent with the Jets. Mawae was an eight-time Pro Bowl pick, three-time all-pro and member of the NFL's all-decade team in the 2000s.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking

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