The Hall of Fame announced the full list of 173 nominees on Tuesday. Michael Vick, Tony Romo, and Devin Hester are among those returning to the ballot, with Hester getting to the final round of voting last year.
Peppers and Gates both have a strong chance of going in straight away.
Peppers retired as a nine-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro, and his 159.5 sacks are unofficially the fifth-most all-time. His longevity was impressive as well. He recorded 34 sacks and 32 tackles for loss after turning 35.
Gates, meanwhile, helped to redefine the tight-end position while forcing front offices to rethink how they evaluated certain prospects. Despite not playing a single down of college football, the 43-year-old was an All-Pro by his second NFL season and wound up with 11,841 receiving yards and 116 touchdowns across 16 years.
Jamaal Charles, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Haloti Ngata, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Max Unger are the other first-time nominees.
Given how close he got in 2023, fans will be eager to see whether Hester’s impressive production as a return man will be justly rewarded.
Hester’s legend has perhaps grown, too, because the NFL’s various rule changes for kickoffs have made designated return specialists all but outmoded.
The 2024 Hall of Fame class promises to be loaded when Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Willie Anderson, Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, and Patrick Willis were, like Hester, all finalists a year ago.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s bylaws stipulate that between four and nine members from the modern era gain induction, so some heavy hitters are bound to miss the cut.
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