Safety Ed Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are more than first-year nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s modern-era Class of 2019. They’re favorites to be first-ballot choices, too, with Reed and Gonzalez the most likely.
All three were first-team all-decade choices and are among the 102 former players and coaches included on the Hall’s modern-era preliminary list, released early Thursday afternoon. The list includes 47 players on offense and 39 on defense, as well as five on special teams, and 11 coaches.
Reed was a star safety for the Baltimore Ravens who not only won a Super Bowl but was a Defensive Player of the Year (2004). He holds a passel of NFL records, including the two longest interception returns for touchdowns, the most career interception return yards and the most interceptions (9) in postseason play.
A nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro, he’s considered the closest candidate on the 2019 list to a first-ballot lock.
Then there’s Gonzalez, who was named to 14 Pro Bowls and holds the league record for most career receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. He’s also second in league history in receptions, bested only by Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice.
In Gonzalez’s 17 years with Kansas City and Atlanta, he missed only two games, and he’s not expected to miss enshrinement in his first try as a Hall-of-Fame candidate.
Bailey is not so certain, though the likelihood of him making it to Canton on the first vote is better than most. Named to 12 Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams, Bailey has competition at the cornerback position, with former New England star Ty Law — a top-10 finalist the past two years — ahead in the queue.
That’s not to say both couldn’t be elected. Inducting two from the same position in the same year is not as unusual as you might think. It happened in 2017 with running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, and it happened twice this year with linebackers Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis and wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
Moreover, having three first-ballot choices wouldn’t be extraordinary, either. It happened this year, with Lewis, Urlacher and Moss named in their first years of eligibility.
The preliminary list will be reduced to 25 semifinalists un November, with that group cut to 15 in January. The Hall will choose its Class of 2019 on Feb. 4, 2019 when 18 nominees (including contributors Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt and senior nominee Johnny Robinson) will be considered.
What follows is the preliminary list for the modern-era Class of 2019:
QB (5) — Randall Cunningham, Dave Krieg, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair.
RB (14) — Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber, Earnest Byner, Larry Centers, Corey Dillon, Eddie George, Edgerrin James, Darryl Johnston, Eric Metcalf, Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor, Herschel Walker, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters.
WR (9) — Isaac Bruce, Gary Clark, Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Sterling Sharpe, Rod Smith, Hines Ward.
TE (4) — Mark Bavaro, Tony Gonzalez, Brent Jones, Jay Novacek.
OL (15) — Willie Anderson, Tony Boselli, Lomas Brown, Ray Donaldson, Alan Faneca, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Steve Hutchinson, Mike Kenn, Olin Kreutz, Kevin Mawae, Tom Nalen, Chris Samuels, Richmond Webb, Steve Wisniewski.
DL (7) — La’Roi Glover, Russell Maryland, Leslie O’Neal, Simeon Rice, Richard Seymour, Neil Smith, Bryant Young.
LB(14) — Carl Banks, Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, London Fletcher, Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Chris Spielman, Takeo Spikes, Darryl Talley, Zach Thomas.
DB (18) — Eric Allen, Steve Atwater, Champ Bailey, Ronde Barber, Bill Bates, LeRoy Butler, Nick Collins, Thomas Everett, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Albert Lewis, John Lynch, Tim McDonald, Ed Reed, Dennis Smith, Troy Vincent, Adrian Wilson, Darren Woodson.
SPECIAL TEAMS (5)
P/K (3) — Jeff Feagles, Sean Landeta, Jason Elam.
ST — Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker.
COACHES — Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Jim Hanifan, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil.