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Bucs undecided on next Ring of Honor inductee, but we have some names

During his gathering with local reporters earlier this week at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Bucs co-owner Joel Glazer indicated the team hasn’t decided if anyone will be inducted into its Ring of Honor in 2024.

While the reason for such indecision isn’t clear, it’s certainly not due to a lack of qualified candidates. No one has been enshrined since former coach Bruce Arians on New Year’s Day, 2023, and the waiting room’s teeming with eager entrants, from both the creamsicle and pewter eras.

Which players (or personalities) are most overdue for induction? The subject elicits stirring debate, and we can’t resisting jumping into the middle of the fray.

Here’s our list — in ascending order — of the five candidates most overdue for induction.

5. Gene Deckerhoff (1989-present)

Arguably no off-the-field member of the organization deserves the honor more than its 78-year-old radio play-by-play icon. Though an acquired taste who eschews objectivity (“WE line up at the 5, snap to Brady ...”), Deckerhoff has provided the soundtrack for the franchise’s most indelible moments and has created arguably its most enduring catch phrase (“Fire the Cannons!”). Later this summer, he’ll embark on his 36th season behind the mic. It’s high time the guy who introduces the “Ring of Honor” inductees be reciprocated.

4. Gerald McCoy (2010-2018)

The lone smudge on McCoy’s resume? He played in a mostly mediocre era. During his nine seasons in pewter, McCoy made six Pro Bowls and collected 54½ sacks (fourth in franchise history) while the Bucs made no playoff appearances. He earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2013 (50 tackles, 9½ sacks, 21 tackles for loss), when Tampa Bay lost its first eight games en route to a 4-12 finish. As for off-field benevolence, McCoy’s in the Mike Evans stratosphere; among other endeavors, his foundation regularly hosted Christmas for underprivileged area families.

3. Simeon Rice (2001-2006)

One can argue this edge-rush extraordinaire has been stiff-armed twice, by the Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rice’s arrival in Tampa in 2001 transformed an outstanding defense into an elite one. A first-team All-Pro in 2002 (and second-teamer in 2003), he remains No. 3 on the franchise’s career sacks list (69½), and still owns three of the team’s five highest single-season sack totals. During the Bucs’ Super Bowl season in 2002, Rice recorded 11 sacks in a five-game span. The Bucs won four of them.

2. James Wilder (1981-1989)

We’re still puzzled as to why Tampa Bay’s career rushing leader (5,957 yards) remains arguably the Ring of Honor’s most glaring snub. Wilder was the bell-cow back for some hideous Bucs teams, but that collective mediocrity shouldn’t tarnish what he achieved with a feeble supporting cast. Wilder’s 3.8 yards per carry as a Buc — when every soul in the stadium knew he was getting the handoff — remains higher than Mike Alstott’s (3.7) and Ricky Bell’s (3.7). And his 46 total touchdowns remain third on the franchise’s all-time list.

1. Tom Brady (2020-2022)

We’re saying it — enshrine the GOAT now, before anyone else. Never mind that Brady will be remembered as a Patriot by posterity (and rightfully so); the guy set a cultural template in Tampa Bay that fostered a winning approach and world title, while giving global attention to a previously foundering franchise. Less than 11 months after signing with the Bucs (in March 2020), Brady was hoisting a Lombardi Trophy inside Raymond James Stadium. His Ring of Honor induction should be done with equal dispatch.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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