This would undoubtedly mean a lot more under different circumstances, but as of today, the NFL has officially given the go ahead for teams to reach contracts with teams who were signed under the XFL, the upstart Spring league that due to the COVID-19 pandemic was forced to cut its inaugural season short after just five weeks of play.
Actually, teams have been eligible to signs players who were under contract with the XFL as of 9AM this morning, so for five hours. But given the current situation, with team facilities shut down and all travel for teams prohibited, I would guess that very few if any players are going to be signed right away.
Perhaps a small handful of the most promising talents may earn a contract. The standout player in the XFL was P.J. Walker, the starting quarterback for the undefeated Houston Roughnecks, the only team in the league who ended up finishing with a record of better than 3-2.
Since I’m writing this at night and this is being posted later in the day, it is possible that some players may have already signed by the time this publishes. Walker, for example, was generating interested from teams, such as the Denver Broncos. He threw 15 touchdowns and 1338 yards in five games, and also rushed for 99 yards with another touchdown.
Another player who could potentially be an early signing would be his favorite target, wide receiver Cam Phillips, who despite his small stature was highly prolific. He led the league with 455 receiving yards on 31 receptions, but more impressively, he caught nine touchdowns. Nobody else had more than four. Quaraterback Josh Johnson, who was previously with Washington not so long ago, is another player who could draw early interest.
If last year’s experience with the Alliance of American Football is any indication, however, then NFL teams have been watching and will be interested. I believe over 100 players from the AAF at some point or another during the offseason ending up spending at least a brief period of time on a 90-man roster.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were among the most studious of NFL teams, ultimately agreeing to terms with six players from the AAF. Two would go on to spend some time on the 53-man roster, including safety Kameron Kelly, who had a role on defense, even starting in the opener, before an arrest led to his release. Center J.C. Hassenauer also spent time on the practice squad and later was called up and dressed for the season finale after Maurkice Pouncey was injured.
Earlier in the offseason, Kevin Colbert acknowledged that the Steelers were monitoring the XFL, similar to their approach to the AAF, saying that some of those playing in the league would have been among the players they would have wanted to sign to futures deals. I’m sure Pittsburgh will sign some of these players, but I’m not sure that will be immediate, given that they can’t bring the players in for physicals right now.