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Pro Football Hall of Fame announces the 15 modern-era finalists for the Class of 2023

This might be one of the deepest groups of finalists in years

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 15 modern-era finalists for the Class of 2023 on Wednesday night. The group of 15 players might represent one of the deepest classes in recent history. These 15 players were selected after a vote by the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, which began with a pool of 129 nominees.

That list was trimmed to 28 semifinalists back in November.

The Selection Committee will meet on the day before the Super Bowl for the final voting process. Out of the 15 players, the Selection Committee will narrow the field down to ten, and then their final five. Once the field is narrowed to five, the Committee will vote on a yes-or-no basis, with 80% being the requirement for selection to the Hall of Fame.

For more on the voting process, you can read the Selection Process FAQ provided by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here are the 15 nominees, listed in alphabetical order.

Jared Allen, Defensive End

Syndication: USATODAY Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sport

Jared Allen spent 12 seasons in the NFL, starting his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded 15.5 sacks with Kansas City during the 2007 season, which led the league. Allen was then traded to Minnesota, and he spent the next six seasons with the Vikings. During the 2011 season Allen notched 22 sacks, which led the league and saw him place second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, behind Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens.

Allen finished his career with 136 sacks, placing him 12th on the all-time list.

This is Allen’s third time as a finalist.

Willie Anderson, Offensive Tackle

Willie Anderson played 13 seasons in the NFL, and is widely regarded as one of the best pass-blocking tackles of the modern era. He is credited with allowing just 16 sacks over his 13 NFL seasons, and when looking at how he fared against 10 of the top 16 pass rushers in NFL history, Anderson allowed just one sack to that group, during his rookie season against Bruce Smith.

Anderson played the first 12 of his seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before finishing his career with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection.

This is Anderson’s second time as a finalist.

Ronde Barber, Defensive Back

Ronde Barber spent his entire 16-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing cornerback for the first 15 seasons before moving to safety for his final season in the NFL. Barber was a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection at cornerback, and tied for the league lead in interceptions during the 2001 season.

Barber was part of the Tampa Bay team that won Super Bowl XXXVII. Barber’s Pick-Six late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles punched Tampa Bay’s ticket to the Super Bowl, and is considered one of the greatest plays in franchise history.

This is Barber’s third time as a finalist.

Dwight Freeney, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

Over the course of his 16-year NFL career, Dwight Freeney developed a reputation as the game’s most dangerous pass rusher. His lightning-quick spin move caused havoc for many offenses, and he was part of an Indianapolis Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI. During his career, Freeney recorded 125.5 sacks, with the bulk of those coming during his time in Indianapolis. He led the NFL with 16 sacks during the 2004 season, and was a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection.

Freeney is a first-time finalist.

Devin Hester, Kick Returner/Wide Receiver

NFL: Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis Colts vs Chicago Bears Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Super Bowl XLI...

That game began with rookie Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears settling under the opening kickoff, and then returning it for a touchdown on the game’s first play. To this day Hester is the only player to return the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown.

Over the course of his 11-year career, Hester carved out a bigger role as a receiver for the Chicago Bears. During the 2009 season, he set career-high marks in receptions (57) and receiving yards (757), and the following season he caught a career-high four touchdown passes. But he was most known for what he did as a returner. Over his NFL career, Hester returned five kickoffs for touchdowns, along with 14 punt return touchdowns.

This is Hester’s second time as a finalist.

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver

Part of the “Greatest Show on Turf,” Torry Holt was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He spent ten years with the organization, winning a Super Bowl with the Rams during that 1999 season. Over the course of his NFL career, Holt caught 920 passes for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns.

During the 2003 season Holt enjoyed perhaps his best season in the league, setting career-high numbers in receptions (117), receiving yards (1,696) and receiving yards per game (106). He finished sixth in Offensive Player of the Year voting that season.

This is Holt’s fourth time as a finalist.

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver

Andre Johnson spent the bulk of his 14-year career with the Houston Texans, and is still the franchise leader in a number of statistical categories. Johnson was twice named a First-Team All-Pro selection, including during the 2008 season when he led the NFL in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,575).

At the end of his career, Johnson had caught 1,062 passes for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns. He ranks 11th all-time in both receiving yards, and receptions.

This is Johnson’s second time as a finalist.

Albert Lewis, Cornerback

Over a career that spanned 16 seasons, Albert Lewis recorded 42 interceptions. Lewis spent the bulk of his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, and was twice named a First-Team All-Pro, during the 1989 and the 1990 seasons.

While a member of the Chiefs, Lewis also blocked 11 kicks.

This is Lewis’s first time as a finalist. It is also his final year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate.

Darrelle Revis, Cornerback

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of modern era cornerbacks, you likely think of “Revis Island.” During a stretch of time in his career Darrelle Revis was the premier shutdown cornerback in the league. He recorded only 29 interceptions over his 11-year career, due in large part to the fact that opposing quarterbacks would be reluctant to test him, and receivers would struggle to separate from him.

He was a four-time First-Team All-Pro selection, including in three-straight seasons. Revis was a member of the New England Patriots when they won Super Bowl XLIX, and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.

Revis is a first-time finalist.

Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle

For over a decade, Joe Thomas manned the left tackle spot for the Cleveland Browns without missing a snap. His streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps played is the longest since the league started recording snap counts during the 1999 season.

Thomas was a six-time First-Team All-Pro selection, a two-time Second-Team selection, and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2010s. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas allowed just 30 sacks over his 11-year career.

This is the first time Thomas has been a finalist.

Zach Thomas, Linebacker

For 12 seasons, Zach Thomas manned the linebacker spot for the Miami Dolphins, carving out a reputation as one of the NFL’s most well-respected defenders. Thomas was a five-time First-Team All-Pro selection, and he led the league in tackles in two different NFL seasons. He finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 1996 — to pass rusher Simeon Rice — and was third in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 1998.

This is the fourth time Thomas has been a finalist.

DeMarcus Ware, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

DeMarcus Ware spent the first nine seasons of his career tormenting quarterbacks as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in Dallas, Ware recorded 117 sacks, which remains a franchise record and those numbers alone would have placed him 23rd on the official all-time sack list. (The NFL did not start recording sacks as an official statistic until 1982. An unofficial list that dates back until 1960 is also available).

Ware then joined the Denver Broncos, and was part of the Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50. He recorded another 21.5 sacks while a member of the Broncos, and now ranks ninth all-time in sacks.

This is Ware’s second time as a Hall of Fame finalist.

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver

Reggie Wayne was a huge part of the Indianapolis Colts’ passing game for all 14 of his NFL seasons. During his time in Indianapolis, he was part of the Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI. Wayne caught 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns in the NFL, and during the 2007 season his 1,510 receiving yards led the NFL.

Wayne currently ranks tenth in NFL history in both receptions and receiving yards. He is a finalist for the fourth time.

Patrick Willis, Linebacker

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Willis played his entire eight-year career with the San Francisco 49ers, and while his career was cut short due to injury, during his career Willis earned a reputation as one of the league’s best inside linebackers. He was strong, athletic, and the prototype “sideline to sideline” linebacker that NFL teams covet in today’s game.

During his rookie season, Willis led the NFL in both total tackles (174) and solo tackles (136), and he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Willis was a four-time First-Team All-Pro selection, and made the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight NFL seasons.

This is the second time Willis has been a finalist.

Darren Woodson, Safety

Darren Woodson manned the back of the secondary for the Dallas Cowboys for all 12 of his NFL seasons. He was a First-Team All-Pro selection for three-straight years, and was part of the Cowboys dynasty that won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX. He had three postseason interceptions over his NFL career, including one of Brett Favre in the fourth quarter of a Divisional Round game during the 1993 season. That interception ended any chance of a Green Bay Packers comeback, booking a spot in the NFC Championship game for the Cowboys.

Woodson is a finalist for the first time.