Ed Reed will officially become the third player drafted by the Ravens to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis as first-ballot selections.
Who will be the next Ravens’ player enshrined in Canton? Here are five candidates worthy of the conversation:
WR Steve Smith Sr.
Smith played his final three seasons with the Ravens after spending 13 years with the Carolina Panthers. Players can’t be measured by statistics alone, but Smith has the numbers. He ranks eighth all-time in receiving yards (14,731), 12th all-time in receptions (1,031) and he had eight 1,000-yard seasons. Smith played much of his career in offenses that were run-oriented, making those stats even more impressive.
His biggest obstacle may be the crowded competition at his position. Isaac Bruce was a finalist this year but didn’t make the Hall of Fame, despite being fifth all-time in receiving yards and winning a Super Bowl. Other great wide receivers will become eligible soon, such as Reggie Wayne (2020), Andre Johnson (2022), and Larry Fitzgerald , who will become eligible in 2025 if he retires after next season.
If Smith could stiff-arm his way into Canton, he would. He was a fierce competitor, willing to take on all obstacles on the football field. However, Smith’s Hall of Fame fate will depend on whether enough voters believe he passes the eye test at a position where great players like Terrell Owens, Andre Reed and Cris Carter all had to wait to get in.
WR Anquon Boldin
He ranks ninth all-time in career receptions (1,076), and 13th in receiving yards (13,799). He was the fastest to 400, 500 and 600 career receptions in NFL history. One would be hard-pressed to find a tougher player. Boldin retired in 2016 and spent three of his 14 seasons with the Ravens (2010-12). He was magnificent during Baltimore’s four-game playoff run that was capped by a victory in Super Bowl XLVII, putting up 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns during the 2012 playoffs. Every quarterback that Boldin ever played with trusted him completely in clutch situations.
Boldin will face the same intense wide receiver competition that Smith faces to gain entrance into Canton. Boldin was sometimes overshadowed by Fitzgerald, who was a teammate for six seasons in Arizona. However, a host of players who played with Boldin or competed against him believe he belongs in the hall, like Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
OLB Terrell Suggs
The Ravens’ all-time sack leader (132 ½) is a free agent who says he will play next season, even if he doesn’t return to the Ravens. That means we don’t know exactly when Suggs will be eligible for induction. However, we do know that Suggs’ resume is impressive. He recently took over as the all-time sack leader among active players when Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers (159 ½ sacks) announced his retirement last week.
Suggs is just five sacks from joining the top 10 all-time, he was Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and he has a Super Bowl ring. In addition, Suggs isn’t just a sack artist. He was an every-down player in his prime, adept at defending both the run and the pass. Like Reed and Lewis, Suggs also has a knack for making key plays in huge moments. He was a dominant player for years, and he possesses both longevity and consistency. That checks plenty of Hall of Fame boxes.
S Eric Weddle
Like Suggs, Weddle’s future for next season is uncertain. He is under contract for next season, but the Ravens have not committed to bringing him back. Weddle could decide to retire if he does not return to Baltimore, or he could play elsewhere. He spent his first nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers before signing with the Ravens in 2016.
Weddle made the Pro Bowl for the sixth time this season, and throughout his career he has been recognized for his ability to orchestrate the secondary, putting his defense in the best position to make plays. With 29 career interceptions, Weddle may not have the stats to sway voters that he belongs. However, playing another season or two at a high level and winning a Super Bowl would strengthen his case.
RG Marshal Yanda
Yanda reestablished himself as one of the game’s best offensive lineman in 2018, making the Pro Bowl for the seventh time after missing almost the entire 2017 season due to injury. He has spent his entire 12-year career with Baltimore and has been one of the team’s most respected players since Day 1.
While the 34-year-old Yanda is under contract, he takes time after each season before he commits to playing another year. However, the Ravens have committed to Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback, and assuming Yanda returns, his presence in the lineup will be as critical as ever.
Yanda has the attributes for Hall of Fame consideration – dependability, longevity, and consistency. However, it’s rarely easy for lineman to get in. Three outstanding offensive linemen who were among the 15 finalists this year didn’t make it – Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli. You can make a strong case for all of them, but Yanda has ensured that a strong case will be made for him when the time comes.