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2021 Hall of Fame class has chance to be one of the best ever

Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson are both eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021. Getty Images

Add Megatron to a Mega-class of potential Hall of Fame candidates in 2021.

With Calvin Johnson's retirement Tuesday, he joins a list of all-time greats who have hung it up this offseason: Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Jared Allen, Logan Mankins and Marshawn Lynch. While that's a heckuva Hall of Fame class on paper, it's important to remember that Manning and Woodson might be the only ones to get in on their first try. Since 1970, there have been only nine classes that featured three first-ballot inductees.

The others might have to wait a year or two if there's carryover from previous years. For example, Ed Reed is on the 2019 ballot, and Troy Polamalu is under consideration in 2020. Safeties have a tough time getting in, but those two will be hard to keep out for long, which leaves open the possibility they snag a spot in 2021.

In addition, Reggie Wayne is up in 2020, but wide receivers usually don't make it the first time. Of receivers who came into the NFL since 1969, Jerry Rice and Steve Largent are the only first-ballot inductees. If Wayne doesn't break that barrier in 2020, he could take some votes from Johnson the following year. Wayne is sixth all time in receptions and seventh in receiving yards among wide receivers. Johnson, who retired after nine seasons, is 37th in catches and 26th in yards.

A class that includes Manning, Woodson, Reed/Polamalu and Wayne/Megatron would certainly rank among one of the best in recent memory. Here are others that stand out in my mind:

  • 1977: Bart Starr, Gale Sayers and Forrest Gregg were all first-ballot Hall of Famers. The class also included Frank Gifford and Bill Willis, who made it as a senior.

  • 1978: Lance Alworth, Ray Nitschke and Larry Wilson got in on their first tries, while Jets coach Weeb Eubanks was also selected. Tuffy Leemans was the senior nominee.

  • 1985: O.J. Simpson, Roger Staubach, Joe Namath, former commissioner Pete Rozelle and Frank Gatski (senior) all made it in.

  • 1987: How about a class that had Joe Greene, Larry Csonka, Gene Upshaw, Len Dawson, Don Maynard and John Henry Johnson? Pretty strong.

  • 1993: Dan Fouts, Chuck Noll and Walter Payton breezed into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Guard Larry Little made it after three years.

  • 2000: What a class. Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott made on their first ballot. Howie Long and Steelers owner Dan Rooney also got the call, along with former 49er Dave Wilcox (senior candidate).

  • 2006: This was one of the strongest. Reggie White, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon went in during their first year of eligibility, while Harry Carson's seven-year wait for the Hall of Fame ended. Rayfield Wright was the senior candidate.

  • 2013: Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp and Cris Carter rounded out one of the better classes this century.