Last Thursday, the Seahawks officially brought an end to the most successful era in franchise history by releasing safety Kam Chancellor and receiver Doug Baldwin, two iconic staples from their Super Bowl championship team.
While Baldwin’s overall production won't warrant Hall of Fame consideration, a convincing argument can be made for Chancellor’s eventual induction despite a severe neck injury ending his career prematurely.
After eight seasons demolishing opponents as the unsung leader of the “Legion of Boom” secondary in Seattle, does Chancellor belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? And if so, when should fans expect to see his bust in Canton?
Why Chancellor Deserves to be Inducted
Few players impacted games more than Chancellor, who struck fear in opponents each week due to his hard-hitting nature and changed how offenses tried to attack the Seahawks. Look no further than Super Bowl XLVIII.
Led by quarterback Peyton Manning, Denver entered the contest boasting one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. The Broncos established a new league record by scoring 606 points during the 2013 regular season, averaging nearly 38 points per game.
But after Chancellor sent a message by leveling receiver Demaryious Thomas on a shallow crosser early in the first quarter, the Broncos rarely tried to complete passes to the middle of the field. And when Manning tried to hit tight end Julius Thomas down the seam later in the quarter, guess who picked him off? Chancellor.
After playing sparingly as a rookie, Chancellor turned in six straight sensational seasons for the Seahawks, recording at least 81 tackles five times, earning four Pro Bowl nods, and garnering Second-Team All-Pro recognition twice. Possessing rare size and physicality for his position, he left a mark on every game he played in unlike few safeties the sport had ever seen, wrapping up his career with over 600 tackles and nine forced fumbles.
As exhibited by his strong showing in both Super Bowls he played in, “Bam Bam” also always seemed to come through in the clutch, especially when the lights shined brightest in playoff games.
During the 2013 NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, Chancellor intercepted a fourth quarter pass by Colin Kaepernick to thwart a potential scoring drive. With the Panthers trying to mount a comeback in the 2014 Divisional Round, he jumped a pass by Cam Newton and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to put a dagger in the opponent. In frigid sub-zero temperatures against the Vikings in the 2016 Wild Card round, he stripped running back Adrian Peterson for a critical game-changing turnover.
Time and time again, Chancellor delivered monumental plays when the Seahawks needed them most and finished his career with 97 tackles, three interceptions, and a forced fumble in 12 playoff games.
Why Chancellor Won’t Make it to Canton
As dominant as Chancellor proved to be throughout his career, playing only eight seasons limited his overall production. From a statistics and awards standpoint, he doesn’t stack up against other safeties who have been enshrined in Canton, including former Seahawks star Kenny Easley.
Many point to Easley, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017, as proof players with injury-shortened careers can still make it to Canton. While there’s some truth to this and plenty of players under such circumstances have been inducted, taking a closer look at the numbers doesn’t necessarily work in Chancellor’s favor.
When Easley came into the league in 1981, tackles weren’t readily tracked by the league. Both were widely regarded as punishing tacklers who loved to dish punishment to their opponents, but unfortunately, it’s impossible to compare the two “enforcers” statistically in that regard.
However, Easley holds a clear advantage over his contemporary clone in several other key categories. Despite playing only seven seasons in the NFL, he intercepted 32 passes, nearly three times as many as Chancellor. Additionally, he recorded 8.0 sacks and recovered 11 fumbles, while Chancellor had only 2.0 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Aside from producing superior numbers statistically, Easley received far more accolades during the course of his career than Chancellor, starting with the 1981 Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Two years later, he intercepted 10 passes for the Seahawks and was named the 1983 Defensive Player of the Year. He earned First-Team All-Pro distinction four consecutive seasons and added a Second-Team honor for good measure.
There’s no doubt Chancellor belongs in the discussion as one of the better safeties of his generation, but Easley was a transcendent talent. At 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, he was one of the first massive safeties to inflict his will on opponents and offered greater contributions in coverage.
Playing on a defense loaded with stars at all three levels, Chancellor may not have received as much recognition during his career as he should have due to the talent around him. Fair or not, he was often overshadowed by louder personalities in Seattle’s secondary such as Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
For most of his tenure with the Seahawks, Chancellor played at an All-Pro level and stood out as one of the premier defenders in the NFL, serving a vital role in the team’s historic run leading the league in scoring defense four straight seasons. His contributions and bone-jarring hits won’t be forgotten, as his number will eventually be retired and he’ll join the team’s Ring of Honor in the future.
While it’s not impossible Chancellor could find his way to Canton and playing on two Super Bowl teams could certainly help his cause, the more-accomplished Easley had to wait 25 years after he became eligible for induction before being elected two years ago. If he’s going to join Easley, Steve Largent, Walter Jones, and Cortez Kennedy in football immortality someday, it will likely take several tries and close misses before he receives the call.