Ten players in their first years of eligibility – including Devin Hester, DeMarcus Ware and Andre Johnson -- are among 122 preliminary candidates for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s modern-era Class of 2022, with Ware the leading candidate to become a finalist.
The former Dallas and Denver star ranks ninth all-time in sacks with 138-1/2, one behind Jason Taylor ... and that is significant. Because all of the Hall-of-Fame eligible pass rushers ahead of Ware -- including Taylor, a first-ballot choice in 2017 -- already are enshrined.
Only Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs are not, but neither is eligible yet.
The list, released Tuesday afternoon by the Hall, is composed of 65 offensive players, 46 on defense and 11 special teamers and will be cut to 25 semifinalists in November. That group, in turn, is trimmed to 15 in January.
At that time, 18 finalists will be presented to the Hall’s 49-member selection committee at its annual meeting prior to Super Bowl LVI. The group will consist of the 15 modern-era finalists, senior finalist Cliff Branch, contributor finalist Art McNally and coaching finalist Dick Vermeil.
No date has been determined for that vote.
Joining Hester, Ware and Johnson as first-year eligibles are Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, Jake Long, Nick Mangold, Robert Mathis, Vince Wilfork and Antonio Cromartie.
So who makes the cut? You make the call. Here’s the list of preliminary candidates for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2022:
QBs (7) – Randall Cunningham, Jake Delhomme, Boomer Esiason, Jeff Garcia, Dave Krieg, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair.
RBs (16) – Shaun Alexander, Mike Alstott (FB), Tiki Barber, Earnest Byner, Larry Centers (FB) , Corey Dillon, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Jamal Lewis, Eric Metcalf (also WR/ PR/KR), Lorenzo Neal (FB), Fred Taylor, Herschel Walker (also KR), Ricky Watters, Brian Westbrook.
WRs (18) – Anquan Boldin, Troy Brown (also KR/PR), Donald Driver, Henry Ellard (also PR), Devin Hester (also KR/PR), * Torry Holt, Joe Horn, Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Andre Rison, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Steve Smith, Hines Ward, * Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker.
TE (5) – Dallas Clark, Ben Coates, Brent Jones, Heath Miller, Wesley Walls.
OL (19) – Willie Anderson (T), Matt Birk (C), * Tony Boselli (T), Lomas Brown (T), Ruben Brown (G), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (T), Kevin Glover (C/G), Olin Kreutz (C), Jordan Gross (T), Jake Long (T), Nick Mangold (C), Logan Mankins (G), Jesse Sapolu (G/C), Jeff Saturday (C), Jeff Snee (G), Brian Waters (G), Richmond Webb (T), Erik Williams (T), Steve Wisniewski (G).
DL (16) – John Abraham (DE/LB,), * Jared Allen (DE), La’Roi Glover (NT/DT), Casey Hampton (NT/DT), Robert Mathis (DE), Leslie O’Neal (DE/LB), Michael Dean Perry (DT/DE), Simeon Rice (DE), * Richard Seymour (DT), Justin Smith (DE), Neil Smith (DE), Greg Townsend (DT/NT/DE/LB), Justin Tuck (DE), Vince Wilfork (DT/NT), Kevin Williams (DT), Bryant Young (DT).
LB (13) – Cornelius Bennett, Lance Briggs, Tedy Bruschi, London Fletcher, Seth Joyner, Willie McGinest (also DE), * Sam Mills, Hardy Nickerson, Takeo Spikes, Pat Swilling (also DE), * Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis.
DB (17) -- Eric Allen (CB), * Ronde Barber (CB/S), Dre Bly (DB), * LeRoy Butler (S), Nick Collins (S), Antonio Cromartie (CB), Merton Hanks (S), Rodney Harrison (S), Albert Lewis (CB), Tim McDonald (S), Allen Rossum (DB), Asante Samuel (CB), Bob Sanders (S), Charles Tillman (CB), Troy Vincent (CB), Adrian Wilson (S), Darren Woodson (S).
SPECIAL TEAMS (11)
PUNTERS/KICKERS (7) – Gary Anderson (PK), Jeff Feagles (P), John Kasay (PK), Sean Landeta (P), Ryan Longwell (PK), Reggie Roby (P), Dan Turk (P).
SPECIAL TEAMS (4) – Josh Cribbs (KR/PR, also WR), Mel Gray (KR/PR, also WR), Brian Mitchell (KR/PR, also RB), Steve Tasker (also WR).
* Denotes 2021 finalist.