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Looking at Hall of Fame chances

TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s entirely possible three men with deep ties to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.

The 15 semifinalists from the modern era will be announced Thursday night. I think Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy and John Lynch will make that list.

But, more importantly, will those three be elected in February? There will be no more than five modern-era candidates selected and I think Brooks, Dungy and Lynch fall into three separate categories. Let’s take a look at their chances.

The slam dunk. I think Brooks is a legitimate candidate to go in on the first ballot. Along with defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who was elected to the Hall of Fame last year, Brooks made the Tampa Bay defense of the late 1990s and early 2000s the dominant defense of its time. Brooks was the best outside linebacker of his era and I think he’ll have no trouble getting into the Hall of Fame on his first try.

On the fence. I think it could go either way for Dungy, the coach who made the Bucs consistently respectable for the first time in franchise history and won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis. Critics will point to the fact Dungy won only one Super Bowl and claim he should have won more. That’s a valid argument. But Dungy is universally respected and that fact could get him the necessary number of votes.

The long shot. I think Lynch will get into the Hall of Fame one day, but probably not this year. This is a strong class and that means it will be hard for Lynch to get in. It’s tough to get a safety into the Hall of Fame. Lynch was one of the biggest hitters the NFL has ever had. But it’s likely he’ll have to wait for a thinner class before he gets elected.