NFL Hall of Fame Class 2014: Let the Zach Thomas debate begin

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

With the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions completed tonight, it's of course time to immediately look at who will be elligible for the 2014 inductions. Can Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas make a claim for first ballot induction?

The 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement was earlier tonight, with seven new members of the NFL being immortalized in Canton, Ohio. But, the moment the speeches end, the next question starts - who will be in the Class of 2014?

The 2014 Class will still be battling through some of the backlog still work through the system, with players like wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, and running back Jerome Bettis. Other players who could be under consideration for a second (or third, fourth, fifth....time) include running back Roger Craig, wide receiver Andre Reed, guard Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan, and defensive back Aeneas Williams.

There are also coaches and "contributors" to consider, such as former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, coach Don Coryell, coach Bill Cowher, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.

But, what everyone wants to know is, who are the first time eligible players/coaches/contributors for 2014? They are:

Two Dolphins greats make the list, with Sam Madison and Zach Thomas both being included. Unfortunately, I don't see Madison making the Hall. He has four Pro Bowl appearances, and was a three time All Pro First Team selection, along with winning Super Bowl XLII and tallied 38 career interceptions (90th all time) with 476 tackles.

I do think, however, that Zach Thomas should make the Hall of Fame. I do not think he has a chance to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he has seven Pro Bowls, five First Team All Pro selections, two NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year awards, and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s, to put on his resume. He tallied 1,733 tackles in his career, which places him third all time (tackles were not considered a stat prior to 1994, and were an unofficial stat from 1994-2001).

My guess is, Thomas is going to have to wait for a few years, as the backlog in front of him is cleared (including, I suspect, several multiple wide receiver classes). Defensive players like Derrick Brooks, Charles Haley, and Michael Strahan will all go in before Thomas. He will also get pushed back by the inclusion of Junior Seau starting in the 2015 class, but I think Thomas does get into the Hall of Fame eventually.

Do you think Thomas is Hall of Fame worthy? If so, how long do you have to wait until he dons the gold jacket and has a bust placed in Canton?

More Dolphins Coverage:

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