Who Next?

Six names will be inducted to the Ring of Honor this year - some all fans have known and cheered for and other inductees date back to the early years of the franchise. This year's class was a gimme, but who is next to see their name in the Ring of Honor?

Enamored with the unpredictable and aggressive styles of New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, Owner Woody Johnson and Head Coach Rex Ryan, Jet fans can't help but continue to peek around the corner to catch a sniff of the next big thing going on with Gang Green.

And now, thanks to Johnson and the organization's "deep appreciation for and admiration of those who have worn (the Jets) uniform," fans have something else to get excited about – the upcoming Jets Ring of Honor inductions.

Last week, the Jets announced the first class of their new Ring, which includes the likes of Weeb Ewbank, Winston Hill, Joe Klecko, Curtis Martin, Don Maynard and Joe Namath. The players will be formally inducted in a halftime ceremony during the team's preseason game against the Giants on Monday, August 16.

Jet fans will certainly have few complaints, if any, over the inaugural selections made by Johnson and his internal committee. However, the introduction of the Ring brings upon some serious speculation about who else is deserving of being recognized as the best of the best to don the green and white. So, GreenandWhiteReport.com would like to take this time to bring out the amateur psychic within us, and probably anger a few Jet fans along the way… Unintentionally, of course.

Now, where is my crystal ball?

The following three players are my 2011 locks for induction in the Ring of Honor. And by locks, I mean predictions. And by predictions, I mean choices based on educated speculation. And by that, I mean… Well, you get the picture.

Mark Gastineau- Gastineau has to be a lock for the Ring of Honor in 2011. Statistically speaking, the five-time Pro Bowler (1981-85) was the most productive member of the New York Sack Exchange, recording an all-time team record of 107.5 career sacks. Since fellow defensive lineman Joe Klecko was honored in the first group of the Ring, it seems as if Gastineau would be a shoe-in in 2011. Gastineau was named to the Jets' Four Decades Team and was a four-time All-Pro selection. Also, his 22 sacks in 1984 would still stand as an NFL record had Brett Favre not conceded a "tackle" behind the line of scrimmage to Michael Strahan in the final game of the 2001 regular season. (The Packers were up, 34-25, with 2:41 left on the clock, when Favre rolled out to a side with no blocker and went down just before Strahan. Body language between Favre and Strahan and quotes from Packer teammates suggested it was a gift sack).

Still, Gastineau said that "No sack is a gimme in the NFL," even though he is now second in sacks for a season by a mere half a sack. Despite his unorthodox "Sack Dance" and some off-the-field issues, Gastineau is beloved among the Jet fanbase for his raw ability to get to the quarterback in addition to his competitiveness.

Kevin Mawae- Mawae is somewhat of a no-brainer, as well. After being signed by the Jets in 1998, Mawae made six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1999-2004) and earned All-Pro honors in 1999 and 2001. (He was also a Pro Bowler for the Tennessee Titans in 2008 and 2009 and was All-Pro in 2008). Mawae anchored an offensive line that put running back Curtis Martin, a Ring of Honor member, over 1,000 yards for seven straight seasons.

The only time Martin rushed for less than 1,000 yards in his 11-year career was in 2005, when Mawae's 177-game streak came to an end in October due to a triceps injury that took him out for the season (granted, Martin was put on Injured Reserve after 12 games. Still, his yards-per-carry average was a career-low 3.3 at the time). The iron man center is still well-respected by Jet fans and is considered one of the best Jet linemen of all time, despite being cut by New York at the end of the 2005 season.

Larry Grantham- The first class of inductees includes three members of the Super Bowl Championship team – Namath, Hill and Ewbank. All three are unquestionably deserving of the honor… But what about some defense? The high-powered 1968 Baltimore Colts, who outscored opponents by a 460-158 margin prior to their meeting with the Jets, were considered one of the best NFL teams of all time. Unfortunately for Baltimore, Grantham and his fellow Jet defenders had other ideas.

The stellar outside linebacker led the New York defense in holding Baltimore, the NFL team he was drafted by in the 15th round in 1960, to just seven points. Post-game video shows Grantham running to the referee who was holding the game ball, taking possession of the ball and leaping in elation as he runs off the field – a memory that will surely not be forgotten by a franchise that has yet to return to the league's championship bout. As a first-round selection in the AFL, Grantham was an original New York Titan and earned AFL All-Star honors from 1962-64, as well as 1966 and 1969. He was with the Titan/Jet organization from 1960-72 – his entire pro football career.

Nick St. Denis is a regular contributor to GreenAndWhiteReport.com and writes the weekly AFC East Notebook.

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