There are three players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played all or most of their respective careers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That number could nearly double in 2019.
Super Bowl Champions and all-time Buccaneer greats Ronde Barber and John Lynch are once again a step closer to football immortalization, as both were named semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2019 on Tuesday.
Barber and Lynch were among the 102 initial nominees for the next group of inductees into the Hall, and both remain on the list after voters pared that list down to 25 on Tuesday. Barber is in his second year of eligibility and was also a semifinalist last year. Lynch has now been a semifinalist for seven straight years, and last year was the fifth time that he also advanced to the finalist stage.
In January, this year's 25 finalists will be reduced to 15 finalists, from which a class of up to five modern-era candidates will be chosen for induction into the Hall on the eve of the Super Bowl. Barber and Lynch hope to join former teammates Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in Canton, Ohio, where the Hall of Fame is located. Sapp and Brooks were inducted in 2013 and 2014, respectively, joining former Buccaneers defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who was elected to the Hall in 1995. Tony Dungy, who was Tampa Bay's head coach from 1996 to 2001, was also inducted into the Hall in 2016.
Barber and Lynch were teammates on the 2002 Buccaneers team that defeated the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII. That marked the pinnacle of a Tampa Bay defense that was dominant for the better part of a decade and is considered one of the best in NFL history. Barber and Lynch were teammates from 1997-2003; in 2002, the Buccaneers' top-ranked pass defense picked off 31 passes while allowing only 10 touchdown passes and a combined opponent quarterback rating of 48.4.
Lynch's 11-year Buccaneer tenure began when he was drafted in the third round in 1993; he finished his career with four seasons (2004-07) as a Denver Bronco. He was named to the Pro Bowl following nine of those 14 seasons. 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.
Barber was also a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers, becoming Lynch's teammate in 1997. He would spend his entire NFL career in Tampa, setting franchise records for games played (241), games started (232), interceptions (47) and defensive touchdowns (14). He started 215 consecutive games to end his career, including an NFL record 200 straight at cornerback. Barber is the only player in league history to record at least 45 interceptions and at least 25 sacks.
Lynch earned three first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections and one second-team choice to go with those nine Pro Bowl nods. Barber was an All-Pro five times, including three first-team selections, made five Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Lynch is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in NFL history, and as a Buccaneer he earned the nickname, "The Closer," from Monte Kiffin for his penchant for game-sealing turnovers. Barber perfected his role in the Buccaneers' revolutionary Tampa Two defense, playing both on the outside and in the slot and adding 1,428 tackles to his interception and sack totals, a remarkable total for a cornerback.
This year's list of semifinalists includes three players who are eligible for the first time: cornerback Champ Bailey, tight end Tony Gonzalez and safety Ed Reed.