Michael Strahan (7 Pro Bowls) retired yesterday, augmenting a potential Hall of Fame class that includes locks Brett Favre (9), Warren Sapp (7), and Larry Allen (11). First ballot locks Junior Seau (12) and Jonathan Ogden (11) could both retire any day now. And borderline Hall of Famers Steve McNair (3), Priest Holmes (3), Bryant Young (4), and Rod Smith (3) have also retired this offseason.
Ogden will almost certainly retire before training camp, but Seau may stick around for another year. Let's say they both retire. Between four and seven people are inducted each year. Favre, Ogden, and Seau are first ballot locks. Favre is the only player to win three straight MVPs. Ogden is mentioned among the greatest as his position than anyone else I've mentioned except Allen. And Seau's 12 Pro Bowls should ensure first ballot status. Allen should be a lock, ESPN ranked him fourth among active players last year, ahead of Ray Lewis, in terms of Hall of Fame resume. And Strahan and Sapp are more likely than not first ballot HOFers, although Giants legend Harry Carson and media darling Michael Irvin having to wait around indicates it is possible they'll have to wait a few years. McNair, Holmes, Young, Smith have zero chance of getting in on the first ballot. So, if Ogden and Seau retire, I'm saying the class of 2013 has four locks and two likelies.
I looked at the all time Hall of Fame classes, and only two stand out above this potential class: the inaugural class of 1963, highlighted by Sammy Baugh, Red Grange, George Halas, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Bronko Nagurski, Ernie Nevers, and Jim Thorpe, and the class of 1971, highlighted by Jim Brown, Vince Lombardi, Y.A. Tittle, and Norm Van Brocklin.
So who are the Hall of Famers that will still be playing next year?
QB: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson
WR: Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison
TE: Tony Gonzalez
LB: Ray Lewis, Derrick Brooks
CB: Champ Bailey
WR: Terrell Owens, Torry Holt
TE: Antonio Gates
OT: Orlando Pace, Walter Jones
DE: Richard Seymour, Jason Taylor
LB: Shawne Merriman
S: Ed Reed, John Lynch
K: Adam Vinatieri
Outside Looking in
RB: Fred Taylor, Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James
WR: Isaac Bruce, Hines Ward
DE: Simeon Rice
LB: Tedi Bruschi, Zach Thomas
CB: Ronde Barber, Ty Law, Charles Woodson
S: Brian Dawkins, Rodney Harrison
I'm counting 20 likely Hall of Famers remaining in the NFL, with Adrian Peterson and Ben Roethlisberger the most likely young players to be considered down the road. Since six out of a likely 26 Hall of Famers from this past season may be retired, that's 23% in one season. The NFL will need some guys to step up in the years to come.