ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Terrell Davis and John Lynch are already Ring of Famers. Once again, they will be finalists to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Davis and Lynch were among the 15 finalists for this year's Hall of Fame class. Up to five of the 15 will be chosen for induction when the Selection Committee meets Feb. 4 in Houston, one day before Super Bowl LI.
While Davis and Lynch move on to the list of finalists for the third and fourth times, respectively, Steve Atwater and Karl Mecklenburg did not advance from the group of 26 semifinalists. Atwater was a finalist last year.
In addition to the Ring of Famers, former Broncos safety Brian Dawkins will also be a finalist. Dawkins played three seasons for the Broncos (2009-11) after 13 outstanding seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Dawkins earned two Pro Bowl selections in three Broncos seasons before he retired.
This is the first year in which Dawkins is eligible.
"I don't take these things for granted. I understand the plight of safeties," he said, referring to the complete dearth of pure safeties from the last 35 years in the Hall of Fame. "To make it this far in my first year, it's a tremendous, tremendous honor."
Cornerback Ty Law, who played for the Broncos in 2009, is also among the finalists.
Take a closer look at why the two Ring of Famers who are among this year's finalists should be inducted:
WHY JOHN LYNCH SHOULD BE IN**
This is Lynch's fourth consecutive year as a Hall of Fame finalist, and at some point, the Ring of Famer -- and Buccaneers Ring of Honor member -- should finally kick in the door that has blocked his path to induction.
Not only are Lynch and Dawkins the only eligible defensive player with nine Pro Bowl selections to not be enshrined, but they are the only players any position with at least nine Pro Bowl bids and two or more first-team All-Pro nods to not be enshrined.
Lynch is a prime example of how the Hall of Fame has struggled to honor pure safeties in recent decades. No pure safety to have played since 1981 is in the Hall.
"I think that's the sentiment that I feel most strongly about, and I've communicated [it] when asked by the Hall of Fame writers, that, hey, I certainly would like if it was me, but I think this is something that needs to change," Lynch explained last year. "That argument really doesn't hold water with me.
"Maybe at one point that position was one that wasn't of great import in football and on defenses, but I think as anyone has seen the position evolve -- and that's where I feel fairly good about being a part of that position changing, because early in football, they were just kind of a last line of defense."
That changed -- in part because of Lynch and the way the Buccaneers and Broncos used him.
"I'll never forget getting to Tampa and Tony [Dungy] saying, 'Hey, we're going to do some neat things, and really change the way that this position has been played. We're going to blitz you. We're going to play you down in the box. We're also going to play you back. We're going to cover you,' and that's why I think it's such an impactful position," Lynch said last year. "All you have to do is turn on the playoffs, any time over the last 10, 15, 20 years, you tend to see a safety taking over the playoffs, because you can at that position, because you're featured in so many ways.
"I think it takes a great skill. So when people say, 'It's just hard; there aren't that many safeties [in the Hall of Fame],' well, I say that needs to change. And whether that's me or someone else, that should be a priority for Hall voters."
WHY TERRELL DAVIS SHOULD BE IN**
For starters, no player in league history has been league MVP, Super Bowl MVP and has posted a 2,000-yard rushing season.
But beyond that superlative 1998 season tally of 2,008 yards, one number stands out above all for Terrell Davis, who this year will be a finalist for the third time: 101.7. That's his average rushing yardage per game, including the postseason, when he was at his finest. Among running backs with at least 6,000 yards, that's better than everyone but the legendary Jim Brown.
There's no shortage of running backs in the Hall, and they fit into plenty of different categories: speed backs with short careers (Gale Sayers), short-yardage bruisers (Jerome Bettis) and players who ground out career-long numbers without significant team or individual accolades to go along with them (Curtis Martin, Leroy Kelly).
The existence of multiple paths to being a Hall-worthy running backs makes Davis' exclusion to this point all the more curious. It's not like there's one single mold for a Hall of Fame running back. Yet to this date, the Selection Committee has not seen fit to honor him.
Davis' exclusion is a major oversight that should end this year. Of course, it should have ended a long time ago.