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Robert Kraft is next in line

After celebrating Richard Seymour's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's time to make way for Robert Kraft.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft with Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Seymour.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft with Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Seymour.

Last weekend in Canton was a great one for the Patriots. Next year's may very well be as well.

Richard Seymour was one of eight individuals enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, and the big fella offered a glimpse into the future during his acceptance speech when he mentioned his former boss.

"You showed us that being consistent in the little things added up to big things, always with heart and humanity," Seymour said of Robert Kraft. "RKK, thank you for being a mentor and a dear friend. You too will grace this stage."

Indeed, Kraft appears to be in line to become the next Patriot to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made his way through a long list of coaches and contributors to earn the nod as a finalist for inclusion in the 2023 class, and now he will await the final vote from the Hall of Fame committee that will determine the members of the Class of 2023 during Super Bowl week in February.

At this point, it would appear to be all but a formality. A quick look at Kraft's resume certainly shows a Hall-worthy candidate. No owner in the history of the sport has overseen a transformation quite like the Patriots during Kraft's illustrious tenure. After buying the moribund franchise at time when a move to St. Louis was very much a possibility, Kraft not only kept the team in New England but he has resided over the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

That winning resume alone would be enough to make Kraft a legitimate candidate for the Hall, but his impact on the league runs much deeper.

Another prominent Patriot – one who no doubt will be enshrined as well – explained why Kraft's candidacy is a no-brainer.

"He's a phenomenal owner," Bill Belichick told SiriusXM Radio's "Movin' the Chains" program. "You look at what he's done across the board. He's made great contributions to the league, in things like the CBA and other policies, and the growth of the league. He's obviously done a great job here in New England, just keeping the team in New England and not letting it out of here, and the success he's had. And off the field -- just the philanthropy and contributions he's made to the community.

"You could put him in the Hall of Fame for any one of those. Combine all three together and hopefully we'll be celebrating in Canton next year."

It's not just Patriots singing the praises of Kraft. Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mel Blount, a Hall of Famer in his own right, spoke to the Patriots owner over the weekend and made a plea of his own.

"Mr. Kraft, what you've done for this game you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. We need to get you in next year," Blount said.

As Belichick mentioned, Kraft's impact on the league goes well beyond being successful on the field. Kraft's place among the owners is secure as he's been an integral part of many committees that have been the lifeblood of the NFL. None has been any more important than the television packages that Kraft has been a huge part of. His background as a board member of Viacom proved quite valuable as the chairman of the league's media committee. His expertise in the industry has allowed the league to ink many lucrative deals with networks and his vision helped garner a deal with Amazon for the first full-time streaming package for Thursday night football starting this season.

FILE - In this file photo taken July 25, 2011, NFLPA executive eirector DeMaurice Smith looks on at left as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, second from right, is hugged by Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colt during a news conference at the NFL Players Association in Washington, after the NFL Players Association executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously to approve the terms of a deal with owners to the end the 4 1/2-month lockout.
FILE - In this file photo taken July 25, 2011, NFLPA executive eirector DeMaurice Smith looks on at left as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, second from right, is hugged by Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colt during a news conference at the NFL Players Association in Washington, after the NFL Players Association executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously to approve the terms of a deal with owners to the end the 4 1/2-month lockout.

Kraft also has been a key cog in the league's compensation, finance and management council executive committees, making him one of the league's most trusted and powerful voices. That fact was most evident back in 2011 when the league and the players were at odds during a lockout that threatened the start of the season. It was Kraft who brought the sides together, helping to broker a deal that led to labor peace for more than a decade since. He did this during a time of intense grief following the passing of his wife, Myra, just days before. The image of Colts center Jeff Saturday, the players' rep at the time, with his arm around Kraft following the bitter negotiations is a lasting memory of Kraft's impact and respect.

The Coach/Contributor Committee members meeting will take place August 23, and one individual will be selected for final consideration for the Class of 2023, from which Kraft should emerge. At least that's the way Seymour and Belichick see it.

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