2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot could be fun

There’s a chance the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot could be one of the most intriguing we’ve had in years in terms of newly-eligible candidates. That’s because there’s a growing belief that surefire first-ballot quarterback Peyton Manning will retire after this year’s Super Bowl, and Manning might not be the only active star to hang them up this offseason.

Calvin Johnson, who holds the all-time single-season receiving yardage record and ranks second in terms of yards per game, has already hinted that he might retire rather abruptly at the age of 30. And Peter King of The MMQB said on Monday that he thinks Johnson will indeed step away from the game the way Barry Sanders did nearly 20 years ago.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions looks on prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Could Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Marshawn Lynch all walk away at once?

And then there’s Marshawn Lynch, who has to be considered one of the most dominant running backs of the modern era. Lynch’s time in Seattle is probably up, and a lot of folks believe he’s leaning toward retirement. Considering Lynch’s history in this area, that wouldn’t be totally surprising.

Now, Lynch doesn’t have the cumulative numbers Manning and Johnson possess, mainly because three of his nine seasons have been ruined by injuries or other outside circumstances. But he, Thurman Thomas and Terrell Davis are the only players in NFL history with four or more 130-yard playoff games. The man has risen to occasions like few other players in his era, and he’s made some of the most incredible plays in NFL history.

That alone should get him into the Hall of Fame eventually, despite the fact he ranks only 36th all time in terms of rushing yards. But in an era in which backs have been devalued, he’ll likely have to wait at least a year — especially if he’s competing in 2021 with Manning (five MVPs) and Johnson (a three-time first-team All-Pro).

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.