(Warning: The following contains potential - albeit entirely theoretical and largely comic-book based - SPOILERS for future installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise...)
Now, while the Avengers as a whole have always coasted on the warm, welcoming embrace of fan-appreciation, one of their number has long been the butt of pretty much every joke going - mocked as somehow not deserving a spot in the team, even within Marvel's Cinematic Universe itself. Step forward, Hawkeye, and take an awkward, superpower-less bow.
Clint 'Hawkeye' Barton, y'see, has long been the runt of the MCU's litter - the guy who let himself get mind controlled by Loki, and uses an archaic set of pointy sticks to fight Earth-threatening evil. Sure, a strong showing in Avengers: Age of Ultron helped his case, and a recent fan theory has (theoretically) raised his importance within the MCU as a whole, but for many, Hawkeye is still very much the 'little Avenger that could', rather than a standout hero in his own right.
Could all that be about to change, though? Specifically...
Could Hawkeye Turn Out To Be The Most Important Hero In Marvel's 'Phase 4'?
In fact, in the years following Avengers: Infinity War, Pt. 2, when Phase 4 is set to unfold, could Hawkeye even end up taking over from Robert 'Iron Man' Downey Jr. as the connecting thread (and all-around MVP) of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe?
It might not be quite as much of a longshot as you'd think - and besides, longshots are pretty much Hawkeye's specialty.
The logic behind all of this?
There's a Pretty Good Chance That Several Of The MCU's 'Big Hitters' Will Depart After Infinity War, Pt. 2
Now, Chris 'Captain America' Evans and Robert Downey Jr. may be making increasingly positive noises about extending their previously agreed contracts with Marvel Studios, but there will eventually come a point where they (and, most likely, Chris 'Thor' Hemsworth) either decide to leave, or find that Marvel isn't willing to pay their ever-increasing salary demands. What's more, with Avengers: Infinity War, Pt. 2 looking set to shake up the MCU, and a whole host of new heroes being introduced in the meantime, there's a pretty solid chance that one or more of the 'big three' will depart the MCU in 2019 - along, perhaps, with the likes of Samuel L. 'Nick Fury' Jackson and, perhaps, Mark 'Hulk' Ruffalo.
All of which means that...
The MCU Might Soon Be In Need Of A New 'Connecting Hero'
After all, while the first two Phases of the MCU were dominated by cameo appearances from Nick Fury and Tony Stark, and Phase 3 looks increasingly likely to be split down the middle by Cap and Tony, there's a pretty good chance that some if not all of those classic heroes will be long gone - or firmly in the background - come Phase 4. Which would leave the MCU in need of a reassuringly recognizable face to tie everything together...as inexpensively as possible.
Cue Jeremy 'Hawkeye' Renner. Less of a famous face than his Avenging contemporaries, and with a mildly stuttering non-Marvel career, Renner in many ways seems the most likely candidate to take over from Fury and the 'big three' as the MCU's 'go-to-crossover-guy'. Tom Holland's Spider-Man will be too young, Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange too out-there, (potentially Brie Larson's) Captain Marvel too recently introduced, and Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther too independently minded. Which pretty much leaves Renner and Scarlett 'Black Widow' Johansson, and she'd likely command more than twice the salary.
The big question now, though?
What Would A Hawkeye-Centric MCU Even Look Like?
Well, as it turns out, a whole lot like the Marvel Comic-Book one fans like us have loved for decades. Y'see, Hawkeye has actually been a surprisingly central character in the Marvel comic-book universe over the years, having founded the West Coast Avengers back in the 1980s...
...and then gone on to lead several other groups, including the long-rumored-to-be-heading-to-the-MCU Thunderbolts:
Neither of those teams, however, seem the most likely option for a recurring Hawkeye in Phase 4, however. Instead...
We Might Just See Hawkeye Bring Together...The Young Avengers
Or, rather, some variation of the two teams to have taken that name over the years, including the more directly Avengers-aping group above, and the noticeably more punk-rock iteration below:
Now, you can read a pretty solid argument for why a version of the team would make a whole lot of sense in Phase 4 right here, but there are two key reasons why the group would make a whole lot of sense as a Hawkeye-related Phase 4 introduction.
1) They'd give Phase 4 a similarly constructive feel to Phase 1, with each new movie introducing a new hero, building up to a final epic team-up. With Ant-Man's daughter Cassie (a.k.a. Stature), the Scarlet Witch's sort-of-kids Wiccan and Speed, a de-aged version of Loki, the space-faring Noh-Varr and a rebuilt Vision all having been part of the team at one point or another, there'd be plenty of potential crossover opportunities - perhaps with Hawkeye turning up in a number of mid-credits scenes to recruit some younger supporting characters as 'Trainee Avengers'.
2) There's actually more than one Hawkeye. As fans of the acclaimed Hawkeye solo series (or, y'know, The Young Avengers) know, the comic-book Hawkeye has in recent years acquired a young protogee name Kate Bishop, who also goes by the name Hawkeye (and is ridiculously awesome). Introducing her to the MCU, then, would surely make Hawkeye a decidedly entertaining option for the team's mentor.
The main argument in favor of Hawkeye taking over as the MCU's 'connecting hero', then?
Hawkeye Would Make For One Hell Of An Entertaining Mentor Figure
Snarky, under-powered and constantly underestimated, there'd be no more entertaining choice to train the next generation of heroes (Black Widow's awesome, and tougher, but perhaps a little too serious-minded).
What's more, we'd not only get to see Hawkeye step up and become a real-deal mentor, as he has in the comic-books, but also a whole lot of Kate Bishop/Clint Barton snark.
Which, combined with Jeremy Renner's accomplished 'handsome yet hangdog' shtick...
...could be something really quite special to look forward to...in like eight years time.