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Saints' Most Likely Hall of Fame Candidates

Sam Mills has received his overdue induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Who will be the next Saints to receive the honor? Outside of current players and the obvious, like Drew Brees and perhaps Sean Payton, here are five New Orleans legends who should be enshrined.
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Former New Orleans Saints LB Sam Mills will be officially enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August. Mills becomes the fifth prominent member of the Saints franchise to receive the honor, joining LB Rickey Jackson, OT Willie Roaf, K Morten Andersen, and General Manager Jim Finks in Canton.

Hall of Famers Coach Hank Stram, running backs Jim Taylor and Earl Campbell, DE Doug Atkins, and QB Ken Stabler also spent time with the Saints, but the bulk of their accomplishments occurred with other teams. Mills finally received his deserved recognition posthumously after being a finalist or semifinalist for several years.

Record-breaking QB Drew Brees will no doubt have his ticket to the Hall of Fame punched on the first ballot. Brees, who retired after the 2020 season, will be eligible for induction in 2026. He’ll probably be joined by his coach in New Orleans, Sean Payton, who stepped down after last season. If Payton remains retired, he'll be eligible in 2027.

Beyond Brees and Payton, who are the next most likely Saints to be inducted in the Hall of Fame? Defensive end Cameron Jordan has a strong case among the current players. If they remain on their current trajectory, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas, OT Ryan Ramczyk, CB Marshon Lattimore, and LB Demario Davis each have a possibility to culminate their career with a bust in Canton.

Today's piece takes a look at five former Saints who are currently eligible for induction, along with their chances to receive this distinguished honor.

PAT SWILLING, LB

  • 1991 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • Two-Time 1st Team All-Pro
  • Two-Time 2nd Team All-Pro
  • Five-time Pro Bowler
  • 107.5 career sacks
  • 36 Fumbles Forced
  • Saints Hall of Fame
  • Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
Dec 9, 1990; New Orleans Saints linebacker Pat Swilling (56) in action against the Los Angeles Rams. FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Dec 9, 1990; New Orleans Saints linebacker Pat Swilling (56) in action against the Los Angeles Rams. FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Mills’ induction into the Hall of Fame was long overdue, but it's an absolute travesty that his teammate and fellow Dome Patrol linebacker Pat Swilling isn't also in. Swilling played seven seasons in New Orleans, earning four Pro Bowl berths and two 1st Team All-Pro honors. He also had two standout years with the Detroit Lions and three more with the Oakland Raiders.

One of the most feared pass rushers of his era, Swilling had six seasons of double-digit sack totals, including an NFL-high and Saints franchise record 17 takedowns in 1991. His 107.5 career sacks ranked 22nd in NFL history at the time of his retirement in 1998 and is still the 33rd most in league history.

Swilling led the Saints in sacks during five of his seven years with the team. His 76.5 sacks with New Orleans still rank fourth in franchise history. Swilling was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1993 amid a contract dispute. The Lions thought so highly of Swilling that they ‘‘unretired’’ the Number 56 so he could wear it. To this day, that number has only been worn by Swilling and Hall of Fame LB Joe Schmidt in Detroit Lions history.

The Dome Patrol foursome of Swilling, Mills, Vaughan Johnson, and Hall of Fame Rickey Jackson are considered the best linebacking corps in NFL history. They were the catalyst of one of the league's most formidable defenses through the mid-1980s and early 1990s and turned the Saints into perennial contenders for the first time in franchise history.

Swilling's statistics and production are comparable or better than other Modern-era Hall of Fame linebackers such as Andre Tippett, Derrick Brooks, Derrick Thomas, Junior Seau, and Kevin Greene. His impact on the field affected the outcome of games throughout his career, a mark of a true Hall of Famer.

Pat Swilling retired in 1998. He became eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. A player has a 20-year window to make it as a modern era candidate, but could still be enshrined as a Senior Candidate. Swilling's last year as a modern era player will be in 2023. Mills was enshrined in his final year of eligibility, but had been a finalist several times.

As deserving as he is, it would be a surprise if Swilling was inducted in 2023 because of the focus on more recently retired players. I do expect him to receive the honor as a Senior candidate at some point, but his yearly Hall of Fame snub continues to be ludicrous.

LA'ROI GLOVER, DT

  • 1st Team All-Decade Team (2000s)
  • 2000 NFC Defensive Player of the Year
  • Six-time Pro Bowler
  • One 1st Team All-Pro
  • Three-time 2nd Team
  • 83.5 career sacks
  • 93 tackles for loss (since 1999)
  • Saints Hall of Fame
Former New Orleans Saints DT La'Roi Glover (97). Credit: neworleanssaintshistory.com

Former New Orleans Saints DT La'Roi Glover (97). Credit: neworleanssaintshistory.com

Glover was picked up on waivers by the Saints in 1997 after spending his rookie year with the Raiders and a stint in NFL Europe. Considered too small for a defensive tackle and too slow for the edge, Glover proved doubters wrong by becoming one of the most disruptive interior defenders of his era.

Glover spent five years in New Orleans and was the catalyst for one of the NFL's most dominant defensive lines in the early 2000s. The Cowboys swooped Glover up as a free agent in 2002, where he’d spend the next four seasons. He’d play three years for the St. Louis Rams to wind up his career.

Pat Swilling's New Orleans franchise record of 17 sacks was tied by Glover in 2000, a mark that still stands today. It remains the third highest sack total for a defensive tackle in NFL history for a single season. From 1997 to 2004, he’d average nine sacks per season.

Despite constant double and triple-team blocking, Glover was a dominant force inside for over a decade. His feats changed the way teams viewed the defensive tackle spot, giving a chance for smaller players to have a chance at the position.

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Glover retired in 2008. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 and has been a semifinalist twice. Overshadowed at the position in his time by Warren Sapp and John Randle, both in the Hall of Fame, it seems a longshot that Glover gets inducted as a Modern Era candidate.

TOM BENSON, OWNER

Canton, OH; Statue of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canton, OH; Statue of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Benson, who passed away in 2018, bought a floundering Saints franchise in 1985. His wife Gayle continues to run the organization and is one of the league's most influential owners.

When Benson bought the team, the Saints were considered one of the biggest jokes in professional sports. During the franchise's first 18 years under owner John Mecom, the Saints had no winning seasons, a .311 winning percentage, and went through six head coaches.

Over the last 36 years since Tom Benson took over operations, New Orleans has a .545 winning percentage, 14 playoff appearances, 17 winning seasons, a Super Bowl championship, and five head coaches, including the recent hire of Dennis Allen.

The Benson family brought stability and a winning culture never before seen in New Orleans sports. One of Tom Benson's first acts upon taking over operations was to hire Jim Finks as general manager, a future Hall of Fame executive. He’d also oversee the hiring of Jim Mora as coach, one of the league's most successful coaches during the era.

Benson showed patience, support, and focus throughout several rebuilding years for the team. He and Gayle were also pillars of the community after Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire region in 2005. Despite rumors of the team permanently relocating, Benson worked with commissioner Paul Tagliabue to keep the Saints in New Orleans.

Tom Benson oversaw the Saints transformation from a perennial also-ran into one of the best-run franchises in professional sports.

The football stadium in Canton, OH, site of the Hall of Fame, was renamed Tom Benson Stadium in 2016. His statue stands outside the venue, which hosts the annual Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason and football games for Walsh University. It is time to enshrine Tom Benson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the league's most influential contributors.

MARQUES COLSTON, WR

  • 2006 All-Rookie Team
  • Saints Hall of Fame
Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston (12) runs the ball after a catch against the New York Giants. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston (12) runs the ball after a catch against the New York Giants. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Colston was the 252nd player chosen out of 255 players selected in the 2006 NFL Draft. Out of tiny Hofstra University, Colston not only made the team, but was an opening day starter and led the Saints with 1,038 receiving yards in 2006.

Colston would be among the NFL's most consistent receivers throughout his ten-year career, all with New Orleans. He had six 1,000-yard campaigns, a franchise record, and two other seasons of over 900 yards receiving. Amazingly, he was never voted to a single Pro Bowl in his career

As a top target on one of the most prolific offenses in league history, Colston was a favorite target of QB Drew Brees. He finished his career with 711 receptions for 9,759 yards and 72 touchdowns. Colston is the Saints all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, total touchdowns, and 1,000-yard seasons.

Despite his lofty numbers, it’s unlikely that Marques Colston will ever get enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Today's era of heavy passing statistics waters down the numbers of receivers.

The fact that Colston never made a Pro Bowl, as egregious as that was, will also hold him back. He first became eligible in 2021, but may have to wait decades to have a better chance as a Senior inductee.

JAHRI EVANS, G

  • 1st Team All-Decade Team (2010s)
  • 2006 All-Rookie Team
  • Four-time 1st Team All-Pro
  • Six-time Pro Bowler
  • Saints Hall of Fame
Nov 17, 2016; New Orleans Saints offensive guard Jahri Evans (73) blocks against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 17, 2016; New Orleans Saints offensive guard Jahri Evans (73) blocks against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Evans was a fourth-round selection out of tiny Bloomsburg University in the Saints spectacular 2006 Draft. He would rise from obscurity to dominance. He’d play 11 of his 12 seasons with New Orleans as a key member of one of the NFL's greatest offenses.

A Game One starter as a rookie, Evans started an incredible 122 consecutive games between 2006 and 2013. He’d miss just seven of a possible 186 contests over his time with the Saints. He was one of the most consistently dominant interior linemen of his era.

Evans was the anchor on an offensive line that annually allowed among the fewest sacks in the league, despite the lofty passing numbers from Drew Brees. He was also a formidable run blocker, dominating the point of attack and athletic enough to get outside on screens and edge runs.

Jahri Evans retired after the 2017 season. His first year on the ballot will be 2023, this January. Given the disrespect given to offensive linemen, it seems unlikely that he’ll be inducted as a first-ballot candidate. As the most consistent blocker on a historically productive offense, however, it seems like just a matter of time before Jahri Evans joins his Saints teammates in the Hall of Fame. 

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