The voters finally got it right.

It took four years, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee made the right call at last by giving Ty Law the nod. Law was a true shutdown cornerback and a star on the biggest stages, and it was all too fitting to see him become the first core player from the Brady-Belichick era to make it to Canton.

The question now becomes: Who’s next? Who else from this run of nearly two decades will join Law in the Hall?

Drew Bonifant column photo

Start with the obvious. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri and Rob Gronkowski are in. Belichick’s the most accomplished coach of all time, Brady’s the most decorated quarterback, Vinatieri has the greatest highlight reel of any kicker and Gronkowski’s the most dominant tight end to play. Discussion over.

Those four might have company. How about Richard Seymour? Belichick’s first draft pick as coach of the Patriots, whom he called one of the two best linemen he’s coached, was a finalist this year in his second time on the ballot, and he has the requisite accolades in seven Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro picks, in addition to his status as a force up front in Belichick’s greatest Patriots defenses.

He could play on the outside or inside, could get to the quarterback or stop the run, and could either take up blockers and create opportunities for teammates or take over himself. Seymour had few, if any, weaknesses, and three Super Bowl rings should make him an even easier pick for voters. It might take a year or two, but the vote should at some point go Seymour’s way.

How about Vince Wilfork, the other player in Belichick’s compliment? Wilfork thrived as the fulcrum of the New England defensive line for more than a decade, and like Seymour was a star player on championship teams.

Wilfork, however, will face a tougher road in. Only three defensive tackles (Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy and John Randle) have been inducted in the last 20 years, and Wilfork has fewer All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections and far fewer sacks than those three, a result primarily of Wilfork’s playing the nose in a 3-4 scheme. He has a shot, but it’s been shown consistently that it’s hard to enter Canton without being a playmaker.

Matthew Slater could make an enticing bid as well. The special teams ace has quietly racked up seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pros and a year-in, year-out reputation as perhaps the best special teams player in the game. Some may bristle at the idea of him getting in while Steve Tasker, the best at his position in the 1990s, remains uninvited, but Slater also has three Super Bowl titles to his credit. He’ll have as good a case as any at that position.

After that, the picture gets murky for Patriots hopefuls. How about Rodney Harrison? The new Patriots Hall of Famer was the first player to total 30 interceptions and 30 sacks, and like Law was a renowned big-game player. But since his retirement in 2008, the Committee hasn’t been kind to Harrison. He hasn’t been so much as a semifinalist in any of the years since his retirement, and with only two Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro picks to his name, his odds don’t look good.

Neither do Asante Samuel’s. Samuel made four straight Pro Bowls and earned two All-Pro nods from 2007-10, and led the conference in interceptions in three of those years. But Samuel, who retired in 2014, wasn’t included on the ballot this year, and without a collection of championship game heroics will probably go down as a good, even very good, but not historic player.

SUPER BOWL

In this Feb. 3, 2002, file photo, New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law scores a touchdown during second-quarter play of Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. AP photo

Logan Mankins, the best of the Patriots’ offensive linemen this millennium, racked up seven Pro Bowls and six All-Pro nods, and should generate some buzz when his first year of eligibility arrives in 2021.

One of the team’s toughest and most durable players, Mankins will nevertheless have trouble getting into the Hall. Given the struggles that fellow guards Alan Faneca (nine Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pros, four years on the ballot) and Steve Hutchinson (seven Pro Bowls, five first-team All-Pros, two years on the ballot) have had at getting over the hump, Mankins figures to be facing a long – perhaps never-ending – wait.

How about skill players? Wes Welker changed the game upon his arrival in New England, turning the slot receiver from an afterthought into a weapon. He caught 100 passes five times in six years with New England, he led the league in catches three times, and he has two of the top 10 seasons of all-time in that category.

Tom Brady, Devin Lucien, Danny Amendola

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady winds up to pass the ball during a July 25 practice in Foxborough, Massachusetts. AP photo

But the receiver position is a hard ticket to the Hall. Welker caught many passes but few touchdowns, and his 51 are fewer than those of any inducted receiver since Lynn Swann in 2001. Considering receivers like Isaac Bruce (91 touchdowns), Hines Ward (85) and Torry Holt (74) are waiting for a call that likely won’t come, Welker seems out of luck as well.

Ditto Julian Edelman. Edelman has gone from a curiosity to a topic of Hall of Fame discussion, thanks largely to his Super Bowl MVP award, three rings and ascension up the postseason receiving lists.

His regular season statistics are lacking, however, and without so much as a Pro Bowl selection to his name, he’s light on ammunition for the conversation. He’ll need the postseason lore factor that helped Swann get in to pay off for him as well.

Not everyone can get in. But there will be a few Patriots getting their busts and gold jackets. Law was the first, but there’s no question he won’t be the last.


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