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5 current Cowboys who should be future Hall of Fame members

Here are five players who could follow DeMarcus Ware and Chuck Howley when their playing days are over.

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Congratulations to the families of DeMarcus Ware and Charles Howley and the men themselves. During the NFL Honors ceremony before the Super Bowl, Ware and Howley were introduced as a part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

Howley played 15 seasons in the NFL from 1958 to 1973. After being drafted by the Chicago Bears, he was with the team for three years before becoming a Cowboy. From there, Howley made a name for himself as a menace on defense, recording 24 interceptions as a linebacker. Howley is also the only Super Bowl MVP named from the losing team in 1971.

Ware was drafted in the first round by the Cowboys in 2005 and played with Dallas for nine seasons. Over that span, Ware was a four-time All-Pro and was nominated to seven Pro Bowls. He also became a member of the Hall of Fame 2000s Decade Team. The outside linebacker amassed 117 sacks for Dallas which are the most in Cowboys history. Ware was also instrumental in the Denver Broncos winning Super Bowl 50.

These men are what all current players aspire to be—the peak of excellence and finally reaching football immortality. While the Cowboys have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, there are a few names to watch out for to be in the shoes of Ware and Howley when their playing careers are over. Here are five names that are on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

5. CeeDee Lamb, WR

In CeeDee Lamb’s first season as the No. 1 receiver with the Cowboys, he ended the year being everything the front office hoped he could become. He finished his third season with 107 receptions for over 1,300 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

After Dez Bryant left, there was a vacancy in the “88 department.” Once Lamb was drafted to Dallas, Jerry Jones made sure he carried on the legacy of the franchise’s historic number. Since his rookie season, Lamb has improved every season statistically. So far, he has lived up to the expectations of the number on his jersey.

Just looking at the Cowboys’ history of the 88’s, Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin are in the Hall of Fame. Bryant was dominant for a stretch of his career but seemed to fall off, to no fault of his own, with injuries piling up. Lamb is on pace to be another Cowboys receiver getting to the Hall of Fame but has to keep it up for the next eight to ten years.

Looking at Lamb’s statistics compared to other receivers in Canton, OH, here is how they stack up.

First three seasons in the NFL:

  • CeeDee Lamb - 49 games, 260 receptions, 3,396 yards, 21 total touchdowns
  • Michael Irvin - 32 games, 78 receptions, 1,445 yards, 12 touchdowns
  • Terrell Owens - 48 games, 162 receptions, 2,553 yards, 27 touchdowns
  • Marvin Harrison - 44 games, 196 receptions, 2,478 yards, 21 touchdowns

4. Trevon Diggs, CB

The Cowboys have struggled to find a No. 1 cornerback for a while. Alabama’s Trevon Diggs was waiting for Dallas to take him in the second round of the 2020 draft. Even though the team struggled mightily on defense during Diggs’ rookie season, he showed flashes of what he could become with the right coordinator.

Enter Dan Quinn and his brilliant mind. Diggs turned into a star in his second season, recording 11 interceptions which tied the Cowboys franchise record for picks in a single season. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was nominated for first-team All-Pro at cornerback.

While Diggs didn’t duplicate his interception total from last season to this season, opposing quarterbacks didn’t look in his direction and he shut down many of the NFL’s elite wide receivers. Diggs’ 2022 production still earned him a second Pro Bowl nomination.

Just like Lamb, Diggs will need a new contract very soon. The difference between the two players is that Lamb has the fifth-year option for being a first-round pick. Diggs does not, given he was selected in the second round.

If Diggs were to stay on this path and be a Dallas Cowboy for life, he would be up there with names like Herb Adderley, Mel Renfro, and potentially Deion Sanders, who played corner for the Cowboys.

Here are comparable numbers to other Hall of Fame corners in their first three seasons in the NFL.

First Three Seasons in the NFL:

  • Trevon Diggs - 45 games, 169 tackles, 17 interceptions, 49 passes defended, 2 TDs
  • *Deion Sanders - 47 games, 138 tackles, 14 interceptions, 3 TDs, 1x Pro Bowl
  • Champ Bailey - 48 games, 192 tackles, 13 interceptions, 48 passes defended, 1 TD
  • *Ronde Barber - 33 games, 152 tackles, 4 interceptions, 18 passes defended, 0 TDs

* - Passes defended didn’t become an official stat until 1999.

3. Micah Parsons, LB/DE

Micah Parsons has already proven to be a generational talent going into his third season in the NFL. As a rookie in 2021, he earned Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors for recording 13 sacks as a hybrid linebacker and defensive end.

When the Cowboys lost DeMarcus Lawrence before Week 2 of the 2021 season, Dan Quinn decided to use Parsons at defensive end, trusting his evaluation and vision of the player coming out of the draft. He took the NFL over by storm. Parsons was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and named to first-team All-Pro.

Parsons’ production didn’t fall off in 2022, and he remained a consistent pass rusher totaling 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, 13 tackles for loss, and 106 pressures, 36 more than his rookie season. Comparisons between Parsons to Lawrence Taylor have already started, and many regard Taylor as the greatest defensive player of all time. While Parsons’ career is the youngest on the list, it’s hard to imagine No. 11 isn’t in a category of his own when he’s up for Hall of Fame consideration.

Here are comparable numbers to other Hall of Fame corners in their first three seasons in the NFL.

First Two Seasons in the NFL:

  • Micah Parsons - 33 games, 149 tackles, 26.5 sacks, 33 TFL, 2x All-Pro, 2x Pro Bowl
  • Charles Haley - 28 games, 84 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 1 INT, 5 forced fumbles
  • Lawrence Taylor - 25 games, 17 sacks, 1 INT, 1981 DROY, 2x DPOY, 2x All-Pro, 2x Pro Bowl
  • Jason Taylor - 29 games, 94 tackles, 14 sacks, 1997 DROY Honors, 1998 DPOY Honors

2. Tyron Smith, LT

After another season in which Tyron Smith was unable to stay healthy for 17 games, it’s still a question whether he will return to the Cowboys in 2023 or decide to retire. Dallas protected themselves by drafting his heir apparent in Tyler Smith, who started every game for the Cowboys at left tackle.

While Tyron Smith’s future is uncertain, there’s no denying he has been one of the best to play his position for the better part of a decade. Since being drafted ninth overall in 2011, Smith has been a plug-and-play tackle for Dallas. Tyron Smith was reliable early in his career, missing just one game in five seasons.

Unfortunately, Smith has not been able to play an entire season since 2015. Even though he has shuffled in and out of the lineup, when he is on the field, the Cowboys’ offense is better for it.

Smith was named to the Hall of Fame 2010’s All-Decade Team, collected two first- and second-team All-Pro nominations, and has been to eight Pro Bowls. Smith might not be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, but he should hear his name called within the next 15 years.

1. Zack Martin, RG

Zack Martin is almost a lock to make the Hall of Fame and will probably do it on his first time through the selection process. Martin started his career off as the player the Cowboys took instead of Johnny Manziel. He was a great tackle coming out of Notre Dame but was not the flashy pick Cowboys fans were hoping for.

Martin turned the narrative around quickly and has solidified himself as the best right guard in football. His first season was so dominant Martin came in second place for Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014—as a guard. Think about this. Martin has more Pro Bowl selections than he does holding penalties. He has been in the NFL for nine seasons.

Like Tyron Smith, Martin was named to the Hall of Fame 2010’s All-Decade Team, has been named to eight Pro Bowls, and has been a first or second-team All-Pro in every season except for 2020.

There’s no need to compare Martin’s career to anyone else in the Hall of Fame because his career is either better or comparable to players who have already been given their golden jackets. There’s no doubt Martin will be a future Hall of Famer. When it happens, the debate will become, is he the best Dallas Cowboy in franchise history?

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