Does your NFL team have a ring of honor? Here's how it works.

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Sunday, September 10, 2023

The New England Patriots will honor legendary quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday, when the team celebrates the career of the seven-time Super Bowl winner at halftime of their Week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium.

Brady's eventual induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame has long been considered an inevitability, but New England's strong track record for honoring its legends -- and even the criteria it uses -- doesn't necessarily match that of every NFL team.

ESPN's team of NFL reporters dove into the particulars of each team's approach to giving revered organizational figures their flowers, whether it's a hall of fame, ring of honor or some other sphere of celebration. As our research shows, not every team follows the same parameters -- and some choose not to honor their past legends in this way at all.

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Arizona Cardinals

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:In a joint effort between multiple departments and owner Michael Bidwill, potential honorees are considered based on three things: Consistent and outstanding on-field performance, being an outstanding teammate and being an outstanding representative of the team on and off the field, and in the community.

Glaring omission:Larry Fitzgerald -- but it's just a matter of time. -- Josh Weinfuss

Atlanta Falcons

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works: The Falcons have an executive committee that meets every year to discuss potential honorees and when they could be inducted. Atlanta looks at contributions on and off the field when making decisions about ring of honor possibilities. The Falcons have 12 players in the ring of honor, with center Todd McClure the most recent inductee last season.

Glaring omissions: Michael Vick, Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, John Abraham, Matt Bryant.Some of these omissions -- particularly Matt Ryan and Julio Jones -- will end up there one day but technically remain active players.-- Michael Rothstein

Baltimore Ravens

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works: The Ravens have never disclosed the specifics of the selection process, other than to say the member must "possess a rare combination of talent and characteristics that every member of the Ravens organization strives to achieve and maintain," including character, passion and humility. There have been 11 Ravens players and two contributors (former owner Art Modell and former coach Brian Billick) who have been inducted.

Glaring omission: Chris McAlister. He is arguably the best cornerback in Ravens history, becoming a key member of the Ravens' first Super Bowl team and historic 2000 defense. He was a first-team All-Pro and made three Pro Bowls, which are more than four members in the Ravens' ring of honor (Michael McCrary, Matt Stover, Todd Heap and Jamal Lewis). But McAlister clashed with the coaching staff over the years and had some off-the-field issues, which led him to being suspended for one game in 2003. -- Jamison Hensley

Buffalo Bills

Name:Wall of Fame

How voting works:A panel of team personnel and media members select members.

Glaring omission: DB Butch Byrd. The fourth-round pick in the 1964 AFL draft by the Bills played for Buffalo from 1964-70 and then for the Broncos for one season (1971). Starting for two AFL championship teams, he remains the Bills' all-time leader in interceptions (40), including five for touchdowns, in addition to being a strong punt returner, and he was named to the All-Star Game five times. He also played in 14 games every season of his career. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Carolina Panthers

Name:Hall of Honor

How voting works:There is a five-member panel. Team officials won't reveal the names of the panel but say they are familiar with team history. Mike McCormack, the team's first president, was inducted in 1997 and linebacker Sam Mills in 1998. No other members were named until new owner David Tepper bought the team and had four new names -- Steve Smith Sr., Jake Delhomme, Jordan Gross and Wesley Walls -- added to the list in 2019.

Glaring omission: None. -- David Newton

Chicago Bears

No ring of honor or hall of fame. The Bears have the most numbers retired of any franchise and the most members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but do not have an official ring of honor. -- Courtney Cronin

Cincinnati Bengals

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:Season-ticket members and suite holders vote on a list of semifinalists provided by the team. The top two choices are then inducted into the team's ring of honor. This year, Boomer Esiason and Chad Johnson were selected from a list of 13 nominees.

Glaring omission:Corey Dillon. It's hard to name anyone here since the ring of honor debuted only in 2021. However, Dillon does have a strong case for inclusion as the team's all-time leading rusher. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:Under then-president Mike Holmgren, the Browns implemented their ring of honor in 2010 and initially enshrined the franchise's 16 Pro Football Hall of Famers. In 2018, owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam added the number "10,363," in honor of tackle Joe Thomas' consecutive snaps, believed to be an NFL record. The franchise currently has an alumni-headed committee that votes on nominees. In 2019, the team added its first, and so far only, non-Pro Football Hall of Famer to its ring of honor, inducting former linebacker Clay Matthews.

Glaring omission:QB Bernie Kosar. No player over the past four decades is more closely identifiable with the Browns than Kosar, who quarterbacked Cleveland to three AFC Championship Games in the 1980s. -- Jake Trotter

Dallas Cowboys

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:There is no voting. It's Jerry Jones' call. He has taken Tex Schramm's "keep it exclusive" to heart, and kept it exclusive. He will consult with people in the organization, former players and coaches, but it is his call.

Glaring omissions:Jimmy Johnson, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin, Cornell Green. Johnson is at the top of the list because Jones has said he will put Johnson in. Johnson keeps waiting. -- Todd Archer

Denver Broncos

Name:Broncos Ring of Fame

How voting works:A committee that includes team owners Rob Walton, Greg Penner and Carrie Walton Penner as well as play-by-play announcer Dave Logan, Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, former coach Mike Shanahan and long-time media relations director Jim Saccomano (now retired) does the voting. The committee meets annually and selects inductees. This is the first year this version of the committee has assembled -- the Walton-Penner group were officially approved as team owners in August 2022.

Glaring omission: None. -- Jeff Legwold

Detroit Lions

Name:Pride of the Lions

How voting works:The organization does not disclose its criteria. The inaugural class was named in 2009. Former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Lomas Brown was announced as the 20th and most recent inductee during the 2023 preseason opener. He joined franchise greats Barry Sanders, Bobby Layne and Charlie Sanders to be prominently featured at Ford Field with their name, jersey numbers and years played in Detroit on display.

Glaring omission:Calvin Johnson. Johnson and the Lions had a falling out over issues related to Johnson's 2016 retirement, and money it sought to reclaim from the eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer. The relationship between the receiver and team has improved, but no word on when Johnson will be honored with induction. -- Eric Woodyard

Green Bay Packers

Name:Hall of Fame

How voting works:The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame is a separate entity from the football franchise. The Hall dates to the late 1960s and was founded by local businessmen not associated with the team. The current museum opened in the Lambeau Field atrium in 2015. Previously, it had been located off property away from the stadium. Since its inception in 1970, 168 individuals have been inducted. The selection committee is made up hall of fame board members, media members and team representatives.

For years, there was actually a significant disconnect between the team and the hall of fame but the relationship has been repaired, which opened the door for the relocation to the stadium. This is different from the names on the faade inside Lambeau Field. That is reserved largely for Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent significant parts of their careers with the Packers.

Glaring omission:Brian Noble. While the linebacker played in the era right before the Packers' resurgence in the 1990s, his production shouldn't be devalued just because the team had only two winning seasons (1989 and 1992) while Noble was a regular. A fifth-round pick in 1985, Noble consistently led the Packers in tackles (an unofficial NFL stat) until injuries ended his career two games into the 1993 season. He averaged more than 100 tackles per season in his first eight seasons. If it's not Noble, then it's probably Santana Dotson. -- Rob Demovsky

Houston Texans

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works: A panel including ownership and current members of the Texans Ring of Honor decides on new members. The two current members are former Texans co-founder Robert C. McNair, who died in 2018, and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Defensive end J.J. Watt will be inducted on Oct. 1 when the Texans face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Glaring omission: None. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Indianapolis Colts

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:Selections are made by owner Jim Irsay who, according to the team, seeks candidates who went "above and beyond" on the field and off. Irsay's history with the franchise dates to 1972, when his father, Bob, acquired the Baltimore Colts.

Glaring omission: Bob Sanders. There might not be universal agreement on Sanders' inclusion because of his injury-shortened career. But he was as big a game-changer as you'll find in Colts history, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. That's a distinction not even Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis ever achieved, even though both are enshrined. Sanders was a two-time first-team All-Pro safety despite playing just 48 games for Indianapolis. -- Stephen Holder

Jacksonville Jaguars

Name:Pride of the Jaguars

How voting works:The Jaguars are in the process of revamping the selection process. The goal is to make it more collaborative, involving people who have been around the franchise for a long time, including executives, former executives and coaches, and members of the media.

Glaring omission:Tom Coughlin. He was the first coach (and de facto GM) in franchise history and was responsible for all three AFC Championship Game appearances: The first two as coach in 1996 and 1999 and the last as executive vice president of football operations in 2017. He is one of 12 semifinalists in the coach/contributor category for consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2024 after winning two Super Bowls with the New York Giants.

Kansas City Chiefs

Name:Chiefs Hall of Fame

How voting works:There is a small group of team officials and former players who discuss the candidates. One is selected each year. The final decision rests with chairman Clark Hunt.

Glaring omission:Former GM Carl Peterson. The Chiefs struggled for most of a 20-year period but that turned around quickly once Peterson was hired in 1989. The coach who led the renaissance, the late Marty Schottenheimer, is in the team's hall of fame but Peterson's contributions have been ignored. -- Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders do not have a ring of honor or team hall of fame. -- Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers

Name:Chargers Hall of Fame

How voting works:After four seasons in retirement, former players become eligible to enter the Chargers Hall of Fame, which is determined by a vote among all living Chargers Hall of Fame members.

Glaring omission: None. -- Lindsey Thiry

Los Angeles Rams

The current iteration of the franchise has no ring of honor.The Rams established a ring of fame during their 21 years in St. Louis that recognized 13 players, three owners and coach Dick Vermeil between 1999 and 2011. But since the Rams now share SoFi Stadium with the Chargers in Los Angeles, they are wrestling with how best to salute past legends. Potential options could include hanging a banner or graphics on one of the digital advertising ribbons in the stadium bowl on game days, or something more permanent established on-site. Until that gets sorted out, the Rams' ring is in limbo. -- Lindsey Thiry

Miami Dolphins

Name:Miami Dolphins Honor Roll

How voting works:New members are selected by current team officials in collaboration with previous inductees.

Glaring omission:CB Sam Madison. The Dolphins' second-round pick in 1997 made four straight Pro Bowls and was voted first-team All-Pro twice from 1999 to 2002, forming arguably the best tandem at the position alongside teammate Pat Surtain. There aren't many glaring omissions, but Madison, the Dolphins' current cornerbacks coach, probably deserves a nod. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Minnesota Vikings

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:The team does not disclose how it determines who will join. It has added 24 players to the club, which is displayed on the interior faade of U.S. Bank Stadium, but does not have a mandatory inclusion pattern. It will not, for example, induct anyone during the 2023 season.

Glaring omission: None. -- Kevin Seifert

New England Patriots

Name:Patriots Hall of Fame

How voting works:A committee of media members, former coaches, former players and team employees nominates candidates annually, and then votes for three finalists. The finalists then are presented to fans, who vote for the inductee on the team website. There are exceptions when owner Robert Kraft uses his executive power to induct a deserving candidate.

Glaring omission: None. -- Mike Reiss

New Orleans Saints

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:The Saints decide internally and have not disclosed how they choose players. The selection panel includes general manager Mickey Loomis and owner Gayle Benson

Glaring omission:The Saints don't really have a glaring omission after they added Sam Mills in 2021. They will undoubtedly add quarterback Drew Brees, who retired in 2021, as soon as they feel it's appropriate. -- Katherine Terrell

New York Giants

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:The Giants started their ring of honor when MetLife Stadium opened in 2010 with a huge class of 30 legends. The number of inductions has since varied by year. There is no official committee that decides each class, with ownership ultimately making the final decision. But there are believed to be a few contributors who suggest nominees. Their identities are unknown.

Glaring omission: None. -- Jordan Raanan

New York Jets

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:The Jets won't disclose the specifics of the selection process, except to say they have a committee that has "robust" discussion on the playing careers of potential honorees. They won't say who serves on the committee.

Glaring omission:OT Marvin Powell. A first-round pick in 1977, Powell was a three-time All Pro (first team) and a five-time Pro Bowler for the Jets. He's one of only six Jets with multiple All-Pro selections in the Super Bowl era; the other five are in the ring of honor. -- Rich Cimini

Philadelphia Eagles

Name:Hall of Fame

How voting works:The team has a selection committee that consists of internal and external members who meet annually. It is not a prerequisite that there will be an inductee each year. Instead, inductees are selected at a time deemed appropriate by the committee.

Glaring omission:Herm Edwards. A key figure in the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" -- one of the great plays in team history -- Edwards also starred at cornerback for the Eagles from 1977-85, racking up 33 interceptions over that time to go with five postseason picks. -- Tim McManus

Pittsburgh Steelers

Name:Hall of Honor

How voting works:Art Rooney II, team historian Bob Labriola, Pittsburgh journalist Andrew Stockey, former Steelers PR director Joe Gordon and NFL director of marketing Tony Quatrini make up the five-person committee that decides on the yearly inductees. Before his death this year, longtime Pittsburgh radio host Stan Savaran was also on the panel. Each member suggests inductees, the group determines the class and announces it each August.James Harrison, Ray Mansfield, Gerry Mullins and Aaron Smith will make up the 2023 class.

In order to be considered, players must be retired for at least three seasons, must have played for the Steelers for a minimum of three seasons and possess "noteworthy career highlights, records and achievements." Former coaches and contributors who made "significant contributions to the team and community" are also considered. Before this year's four-man class, there are 49 members of the hall. Each member receives a solid steel football upon induction, a replica of the original given to Art Rooney Sr. by the United States Steel Corporation and United Steel Workers in 1982 for the 50th anniversary of the team's founding.

Glaring omission: None. -- Brooke Pryor

San Francisco 49ers

Name:Edward DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame

How voting works:According to the team, "all candidates must have displayed one or more of the following qualifications: outstanding production and performance on the field, key contributions to the team's success and/or the embodiment of the spirit and essence of the San Francisco 49ers." Players who have had their jersey numbers retired and/or been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been automatically enshrined into the 49ers Hall of Fame, which was established in 2009.

Glaring omission: None. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:A group of team officials makes the call via an informal selection process. There are no specific requirements for seasons spent with the team, Pro Bowls or years since retirement. The Seahawks' ring of honor has 15 members, including two coaches (Mike Holmgren, Chuck Knox), a broadcaster (Pete Gross) and former owner Paul Allen. Running back Shaun Alexander is one of 11 players in the ROH and the most recent inductee. That group also includes wide receiver Steve Largent, safety Kenny Easley, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and left tackle Walter Jones -- all Pro Football Hall of Famers who have had their numbers retired by the Seahawks.

Glaring omission:None at the moment, but the time will eventually come to induct the stars from their 2013 and 2014 teams that won one Super Bowl and made it back to another, plus coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Russell Wilson is one of at least 10 players from those teams worthy of inclusion, but it might take a long time for the wounds from his messy departure to heal. -- Brady Henderson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:There is no formal criteria or vote, and inductees can include a player, coach or owner who has had an indelible impact on the franchise. Maintaining strong ties to the team and greater Tampa Bay community during and post-playing days is important.

Induction includes a halftime ceremony and the inductee's name being permanently etched onto Raymond James Stadium. The honor has often been used as the organization's way of throwing support behind a player or coach in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which was the case with John Lynch (inducted into the ring of honor in 2016 and HOF in 2021) and Ronde Barber (ROH in 2019 and HOF in 2023). In some years, the Bucs have had two inductions and in others (including 2023) they've had none.

Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden was removed from the Ring of Honor in 2021 after an NFL investigation uncovered emails containing racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments about Bucs co-chairman/owner Bryan Glazer, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and commissioner Roger Goodell.

Glaring omission: None. -- Jenna Laine

Tennessee Titans

Name:Ring of Honor

How voting works:In 1999, the 40th season in franchise history, owner Bud Adams established a Titans/Oilers Hall of Fame to honor past players and management. The name was changed to Titans Ring of Honor in the 2010s. The process doesn't necessarily have an annual element to it, and there's no nomination and voting process -- selection for the Titans Ring of Honor is organization/ownership driven. There are 17 members.

Glaring omission:It's hard to narrow the glaring omission to one player -- there are so many who appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV. Inside linebacker Keith Bulluck finished with 769 tackles and 21 interceptions, and defensive end Jevon Kearse's 52 sacks are fourth-most in team history. Wide receiver/return man Derrick Mason's 37 touchdowns rank fourth in Titans' history and his 453 receptions are the fifth. -- Turron Davenport

Washington Commanders

Name:Ring of Fame

How voting works:There's no defined organizing committee. Under previous owner Dan Snyder, it could sometimes be decided by him. But the decision typically will involve the owner, members of their senior leadership team, some members of the ring of fame and occasionally media members.

Glaring omission: Left tackle Jim Lachey. He was drafted by the Chargers, traded to the Raiders in 1988 after a contract dispute and, after one game was sent to Washington for quarterback Jay Schroeder and two draft picks. Lachey made it a lopsided trade by making three first-team All-Pro teams in eight years as Washington's left tackle from 1988-95. He's the last player to earn multiple All-Pros for the organization. Washington won a Super Bowl with Lachey starting at left tackle. -- John Keim