Canton Could Call for These Ravens

By Martin Steger

With Rod Woodson being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there will finally be Ravens purple represented in Canton—though Woodson also carries Steelers, 49ers and Raiders colors with him to the Hall. Woodson is just the beginning, though: the Ravens have two players who are virtual locks for this honor, along with many others who may be able to get in. Not all of these players will be considered Ravens in lieu of other teams they played for, but they all made significant contributions during their time in Baltimore. Here’s a look at them, in roughly descending order of Hall likelihood:

Jonathan Ogden, Tackle

Ogden is the best offensive player in Ravens history. He is also one of the most decorated offensive linemen in history, having amassed 11 Pro Bowls and 9 All-Pro roster spots. Walter Jones of the Seahawks has received similar accolades; however, Ogden has a Super Bowl ring, placing him at the top of his generation of left tackles. As a lineman, Ogden may not have garish stats to show off, but he blocked for Jamal Lewis during Lewis’ 2,000 yard season, including Lewis’ then-record-breaking 295-yard game. In this age of raging Hall of Fame debates, Ogden is nothing but a lock.

Ray Lewis, Linebacker

The reason Lewis sits below Ogden on this list is that Ogden is already retired…and if Ray could have it his way, he’d never stop playing. Lewis has been to the Pro Bowl ten times, and has earned 8 All-Pro roster spots; furthermore, he has a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards sitting around. He was also MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, a very tough feat for a defensive player. He racks up tackles with ease and is a member of the 20 sack/20 interception club; however, it’s his intangibles that make him a transcendent player. His effect on his teammates and fans is unmistakable and un-replicable. Lewis still has a couple of playing years left and, provided he stays with the Ravens, will only add to his immortal status in Baltimore…not to mention Canton.

Ed Reed, Safety

Reed is the best ballhawk in the game today, sporting five All-Pro selections to go along with his ridiculous interception totals. He has 43 regular season picks on top of his postseason snares. What makes his ballhawking ways scary is his ability to create points on defense: Reed has scored touchdowns on interception returns, fumble recoveries, punt returns and blocked punts. He also holds a near-unbreakable record with his 108-yard interception return for a touchdown, scored this season. But who knows, he might just break that himself—after all, he broke his 106-yard return record with that score. The only things holding Reed’s resume back are his lack of Super Bowl ring and the Hall’s seeming bias against defensive backs; otherwise, Reed is well on his way.

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End

Sharpe was only with the Ravens for a short time, but he definitely made it count. He was the team’s most talented receiving option during their Super Bowl-winning season, and he already had a pair of rings before coming to Baltimore. The only thing that kept Sharpe, one of the best receiving tight ends of all time, out of the Hall this year was the stacked class around him.

Steve McNair, Quarterback

Now things get murkier. Like Sharpe, McNair was with the Ravens for only two seasons, but his results were more mixed. His steady play guided the Ravens to a 13-3 record in 2006, but a career’s worth of injuries soon took their toll and McNair retired after the following season. Before joining the Ravens, McNair had a stellar run in Tennessee. He shared an MVP award with Peyton Manning and got the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV. But if Kurt Warner’s credentials are up for debate, then certainly McNair’s are. If he doesn’t get in before the likes of Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are eligible, his chances are very slim. On the other hand, he was very well liked and has a head start on the other elite quarterbacks of his generation, so he does have a shot.

Derrick Mason, Wide Receiver

Mason, now 35, has been very consistent throughout his career. Like McNair, he had a great run with Tennessee before joining Baltimore. Mason has quietly amassed over 10,000 receiving yards, a true milestone to be sure but not enough to get him into the Hall alone. He’ll have a very hard time competing with players like Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Barring a Super Bowl ring and/or a few more 1,000 yard seasons, Mason’s resume looks slightly too thin—which is a shame, because he’s a great guy who has been underrated for much of his career.

Chris McAlister, Cornerback

McAlister has long been a key component of the Ravens’ defense since joining the league in 1999, which means he has played for a very dominant defense for a very long time. Up until the past couple of seasons, McAlister had been one of the league’s premier cover corners. He doesn’t have a ton of All-Pro or Pro Bowl spots on his resume, however, and injuries may be taking a toll on him as he has missed much of the past two seasons. As a 31-year-old defensive back, his career may be winding down and he’s facing an uphill battle for enshrinement.

As for the rest of the Ravens, guys like Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata are far too early in their careers to be in anything resembling a Hall of Fame conversation. But with exciting young talent like that and Ozzie Newsome heading an excellent personnel department, the Ravens have a chance to stock Canton for years to come.