Former Miami Dolphins legend Zach Thomas’ aspirations to gain entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were put on ice for another year, if not more.
The Dolphins’ standout linebacker was not selected for the Hall of Fame’s 2022 class, making this the third time he was a finalist for the highest honor in football, but didn’t make the cut.
“It was an honor to once again be among the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I want to congratulate this year’s class,” Thomas said in a statement the Dolphins released. “They were all great players and are each deserving of their gold jacket. I also want to thank the Miami Dolphins fans who continue to be so supportive. You guys are the best.”
The five modern-era finalists who were elected to the Class of 2020 were defensive lineman Richard Seymour and Bryant Young, offensive lineman Tony Boselli, who becomes the first Jacksonville Jaguars player inducted into the Hall of Fame, linebacker Sam Mills, safety Leroy Butler.
Receiver Cliff Branch, NFL official Art McNally and former coach Eagles, Rams and Chiefs Dick Vermeil were also inducted by the legends committee in a class that saw Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware not gain induction as a first ballot nominee.
Receiver Andre Johnson and return specialist Devin Hester each made the finalist cut in their first year of eligibility, but did not gain induction. Neither did former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and former Rams receiver Torry Holt, who have each been finalist for multiple years.
Hester was arguably the greatest returner in NFL history, but the Hall-of-Fame selection committee typically moves slowly on specialists. Only three — kickers Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen and punter Ray Guy — are in Canton.
Defensive end Jared Allen, cornerback Ronde Barber, and offensive lineman Willie Anderson were the other finalist who didn’t make the cut in 2022. They’ll all more than likely remain semi-finalists, if not finalists next year.
With Cleveland Brown offensive lineman Joe Thomas, pass rushers Dwight Freeney and James Harrison, and cornerback Darrelle Revis eligible for the first time in 2023 its hard to envision Thomas getting in next years because those four elites of their era will likely be first ballot favorites. However, Ware’s exclusion this year proves that predicting a Hall of Fame class is difficult to do.
But the one thing that remains clear is that Thomas remains the Dolphins strongest candidate to gain entry.
In his illustrious 13-year career, Thomas amassed 1,734 total tackles, 20.5 sacks, 17 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and four touchdowns. The only linebacker who was more impressive than Thomas during his era was Ray Lewis, who was a first-ballot inductee.
A former fifth-round pick, Thomas received All-Pro honors seven times (first or second team), made seven Pro Bowls and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
In his years with the Dolphins, he anchored one of the best defenses in the NFL, especially from 2000 to 2003. During that span, Miami ranked third, 11th, fourth and third in scoring defense.
Pass rusher Jason Taylor, who anchored that defense alongside Thomas, was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2017.