It didn't take long for the new year to bring some very good news to John Lynch, one of the greatest players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history. On Tuesday, Lynch was named one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.
Lynch was among the 27 candidates who were named semifinalists in November, as were cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Simeon Rice, two more of the top performers in Buccaneer annals. Those three had made the cut from the original list of 108 candidates announced in September. Barber made the semifinalist list in his first year of Hall eligibility but was not named a finalist. Nor was Rice, who first became Hall-eligible in 2013, but he made a significant step forward with his first inclusion among the semifinalists.
Lynch is a Hall of Fame finalist for the fifth consecutive year. He was first eligible for the Hall in 2013, when he was named a semifinalist; he has been a finalist every year since 2014. The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet on February 3, the eve of Super Bowl LII, to choose up to five modern era players or coaches for induction in 2018.
Lynch could become the fourth player voted into the Hall of Fame who spent all or the majority of his playing career as a Buccaneer. Lynch and linebacker Derrick Brooks were both first-time finalists in 2014 and Brooks was voted in that year. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp was inducted in 2013 and defensive end Lee Roy Selmon was part of the Class of 1995.
Like Brooks and Sapp, Lynch was a key figure in the Buccaneers' run to the Super Bowl XXXVII championship. Lynch played 11 seasons for Tampa Bay (1993-2003) before finishing his career with four years in Denver.
Lynch's 11-year Buccaneer tenure began when he was drafted in the third round in 1993. He was named to the Pro Bowl following nine of his 14 seasons, including the last four in Denver. He is one of just three players in the Super Bowl era who has nine Pro Bowl selections but has yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame despite being eligible. Lynch earned three first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections and one second-team choice to go with those nine Pro Bowl nods. He is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in NFL history, and as a Buccaneer he earned the nickname, "The Closer," from long-time Bucs Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin thanks to his penchant for game-sealing turnovers.