Looking ahead to the 2025 Pro Football Hall of Fame: Eli Manning and Luke Kuechly among former NFL stars eligible for the first time

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Buckle up, Hall of Fame voters. Next year’s Hall of Fame induction class may be the most difficult to select given the immense level of worthy candidates who will be eligible for enshrinement. 

Along with this year’s modern-era finalists who weren’t part of the 2024 induction class, there are a host of talented players who will be eligible for the first time in 2025. Here’s a look at some of the notable names who will be eligible for the first time. 

QB Eli Manning: A two-time Super Bowl MVP who led the Giants to two epic wins over the Patriots in the big game. Manning’s Hall of Fame worthiness will be a hot-button topic for months. 

LB Luke Kuechly: Will voters look past Kuechly’s relatively short career? They should, as he was a seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in his eight seasons. 

G Marshall Yanda: The longtime Raven was a Pro Bowler in each of his final nine seasons. His blocking helped Baltimore capture Super Bowl XLVII. 

RB Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode was the driving force behind Seattle’s offense for most of the 2010s. He best years coincided with the Seahawks’ run to a Super Bowl win and back-to-back appearances in the big game. 

OLB Terrell Suggs: One of the league’s most intimidating players for two decades, Suggs’ career included a DPOY award, seven Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl win with the Ravens. 

RB Darren Sproles: An extremely versatile player, Sproles tallied 8,392 total rushing and receiving yards, 55 rushing and receiving touchdowns and averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry. He also had nine special teams touchdowns while leading the NFL in punt return yards two times and in total return yards once. 

OT Joe Staley: The longtime 49er retired after Super Bowl LIV with six Pro Bowls and 192 starts under his belt. He played an integral role on two San Francisco teams that went to the Super Bowl. 

CB Aqib Talib: A driving force behind the Broncos’ 2015 championship defense, Talib earned five straight Pro Bowl nods from 2013-17. 

WR Demaryius Thomas: Thomas was named to five straight Pro Bowls as Peyton Manning’s favorite target. He played a key role in the Broncos’ 2015 Super Bowl win. Four years before that, his 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime gave the Broncos a shocking playoff win over the Steelers. 

LB Clay Matthews: Matthews racked up 91.5 sacks during his 11-year career. He spent most of his career with the Packers and forced a key fumble in Green Bay’s Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh. 

C Ryan Kalil: Kalil was a big part of a Panthers’ offense that took the league by storm in 2015. He helped Cam Heyward become the second player in league history to throw for at least 20 touchdowns and run for at least 10 in the same season. 

If that list of players isn’t impressive enough, take a look at the following list of modern-era players who are still awaiting their place along football’s greatest players. 

2024 modern-era finalists who didn’t make the cut 

  • Eric Allen, CB (18th year) — A six-time Pro Bowler, Allen had 54 career interceptions that included four pick-sixes in 1993. 
  • Jared Allen, DE (4th year) — Allen led the league in sacks twice and had 136 yards during his career. 
  • Willie Anderson, OT (11th year) — Anderson earn three straight All-Pro nods and was recently inducted into the Bengals Ring of Honor. 
  • Jahri Evans, G (2nd year) — Evans earned six straight Pro Bowl nods as a key member of prolific Saints offenses. 
  • Antonio Gates, TE (1st year) — One of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, Gates caught 116 touchdowns during his years with the Chargers.  
  • Rodney Harrison, S (11th year) — The hard-hitting safety helped the Chargers reach their first Super Bowl before later helping the Patriots win back-to-back titles. 
  • Torry Holt, WR (10th year) — Holt led the NFL in receiving twice and was an integral member of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. 
  • Fred Taylor, RB (9th year) — Often overlooked, Taylor racked up seven 1,000-yard seasons and averaged nearly 108 rushing yards per game in 2000. 
  • Reggie Wayne, WR (5th year) — Wayne enjoyed a prolific run with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and continued to play at a Pro Bowl level late in his career with Andrew Luck throwing him the ball. 
  • Darren Woodson, S (16th year) — The three-time Super Bowl champion is the Cowboys’ all-time career leader in tackles. 

2024 modern-era semifinalists 

  • Anquan Boldin, WR (times as semifinalist: 3) — Boldin’s stellar career included Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and a Super Bowl ring with the 2012 Ravens.
  • Tiki Barber, RB (times as semifinalist: 1) — The former Giants standout is one of three players in NFL history to have 10,000 rushing and 5,000 career receiving yards.
  • London Fletcher, LB (times as semifinalist: 2) — A former Division III star, Fletcher had over 2,000 career tackles and was a key member of the 1999 Rams’ championship defense.
  • Eddie George, RB (times as semifinalist: 2) — A former Heisman Trophy winner, George’s tough running helped lead the Titans to a surprise Super Bowl run in 1999.
  • James Harrison, LB (times as semifinalist: 2) — Harrison didn’t become a starter until age 29, but he still finished his career with two Super Bowl wins, a Defensive Player of the Year award. He also authored one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.
  • Robert Mathis, DE/LB (times as semifinalist: 3) — A versatile defender, Mathis led the NFL in sacks in 2013 and finished his career with 123 sacks as a member of the Colts.
  • Steve Smith Sr., WR (times as semifinalist: 3) — Also an accomplished returner, Smith’s bonafides as a receiver include leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches in 2005.
  • Ricky Watters, RB (times as semifinalist: 4) — One of the most versatile backs in NFL history, Watters scored three total touchdowns in the 49ers’ most recent Super Bowl win.
  • Vince Wilfork, DT (times as semifinalist: 3) — The incredible run-stuffer was named to five Pro Bowls and was a key member of two Super Bowl winners in New England.
  • Hines Ward (times as semifinalist: 8) — Arguably the best blocking receiver ever, Ward is also one of just two players in NFL history with 12,000 career receiving yards, 1,000 catches and is also a Super Bowl MVP winner.

There’s also a slew of deserving senior candidates that includes former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, Steelers defense end L.C. Greenwood and 49ers running back Roger Craig. Contributor candidate include former Broncos coach head Mike Shanahan, former Packers and Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren and longtime head coach Marty Schottenheimer. 

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