Ed Reed, Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey highlight first-time Hall of Fame nominees

Yahoo Sports

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced nominations for the class of 2019 Thursday, with four first-timers among the 102 modern-era nominees.

Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Champ Bailey and London Fletcher are all on the ballot for the first time.

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Of the four, Gonzalez, Reed and Bailey look like locks to make the cut on the first ballot.

Tony Gonzalez changed tight end position

Gonzalez ushered in an era of prolific pass-catching tight ends with the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, making 14 Pro Bowls and earning first-team All-Pro honors six times in his 17-year career.

In his prime, the argument could be made that he was the greatest tight end in the history of the game as he paved the way for other greats like Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski. His 1,325 catches and 15,127 receiving yards are NFL records for tight ends while his 111 touchdown catches are the seventh most in the history of the game and trail only Gates, who had 114, at his position.

Ed Reed, Tony Gonzalez and Champ Bailey each helped define their positions and look like first-ballot Hall of Fame candidates. (AP)
Ed Reed, Tony Gonzalez and Champ Bailey each helped define their positions and look like first-ballot Hall of Fame candidates. (AP)

Ed Reed the best of a great generation of safeties

Reed defined the safety position in an era that saw other greats like Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, John Lynch and Brian Dawkins excel. The nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.

Along with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, Reed anchored one of the league’s historically great defenses that reigned for several years and was a member of the 2013 Super Bowl champions. A big hitter and a ball hawk, Reed owned the middle of the field, intimidating receivers while tallying 64 interceptions over his 12-year career, seven of which he returned for touchdowns.

Champ Bailey defined shutdown corner

In his prime that stretched from his time with the Washington Redskins to his days with the Denver Broncos, Champ Bailey epitomized the term shutdown corner. Quarterbacks looked the other way when Bailey was on the field, and when they didn’t, he often made them pay.

The 12-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro finished his career with 52 interceptions and 174 pass deflections.

London Fletcher a stalwart of durability

For years, London Fletcher carried the designation of best NFL defender to not get a Pro Bowl nod. Then he earned his first of four straight at age 34 while anchoring the Washington Redskins defense at middle linebacker. Fletcher won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams and spent five years with the Buffalo Bills before joining Washington to end his career.

A picture of durability, Fletcher played in all 16 regular season games for each of his 16 NFL seasons. From 1999 to 2013, Fletcher started all but one game, tallying 1,380 tackles and 651 assists in the process.

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