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USFL: Exclusive Details On The League’s Player Contracts

XFL NewsHub has obtained copies of the contract and handbooks distributed to prospective players for the 2022 USFL season. The new spring football league will have some interesting provisions for their players, with one of the caveats accounting for the presence of the Canadian Football League and the 2023 relaunch of the XFL.

What We Know So Far About The USFL

Four of the W’s about the USFL, the Who. What, When, and Where are becoming more clear with each passing day. For the fifth W, Why? You can check out this article that best answers that question.

What we know so far.

The inaugural season for the new United States Football League begins on Saturday, April 16th.

The entirety of the USFL’s 2022 games will be played from mid-April to early July in Birmingham, Alabama. Primarily at Protective Stadium, with some select games played at Legion Field. There is a ten-week slate of games, followed by a four-team playoff over two weeks.

The league’s opener between the New Jersey Generals and the hometown Stallions will be simulcast on FOX and NBC. The partnership between the two networks will see USFL contests air on the two channels, with telecasts also airing on FS1, the USA Network, and the Peacock streaming service. A full broadcast schedule should be released soon. Most games will be played on weekends, but some could also sprinkle onto weekdays.

All eight league teams, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans, Tampa, and Birmingham, will be setting up shop in Alabama on March 21st for training camp. Head coaches Mike Riley, Bart Andrus, Jeff Fisher, Kirby Wilson, Kevin Sumlin, Larry Fedora, Todd Haley, and Skip Holtz will lead the respective teams.

The Generals, Stars, Panthers, Maulers, Gamblers, Breakers, Bandits, and Stallions will select their players over the course of two days later this month. Potentially borrowing a page from the XFL in 2019, there are reports that the USFL will have positional drafts on Tuesday, February 22nd, and Wednesday, February 23rd. The selection meeting/drafts for each position will be conducted in a snake format, and the order of selections will be determined randomly. * The format of the league’s draft has not been confirmed yet.

To be eligible for the retro titled ‘selection meetings,’ players must sign with the league beforehand.  It’s expected that the USFL has a few thousand players in their database. The league will whittle that down to roughly 500 players come draft time. The USFL regular-season rosters will field 38 active players each, plus seven players on each team’s practice squad.

The United States Football League has also opened the door for college football athletes who are either in the NCAA transfer portal or non-NFL draft-eligible players to turn pro early and join. As an incentive, the league, through Strayer and Capella University, is providing a tuition and debt-free college education plan for eligible players under contract. The education program allows players to pursue associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees through various programs.

Counting the regular season practice squads, there will be 360 players under contract with the USFL when the regular season starts. However, there could be some flexibility regarding team roster size during training camps. The early word is that teams could have as many as 60 to 65 players per roster to start camps before cuts occur before the season.

Over the last several weeks, information about the USFL’s pay structure, roster configuration, and player allocation system has slowly become public knowledge. But there are some significant details about those key elements that are now coming to light.

Although rules and the player handbook can be amended from time to time at the sole discretion of the USFL, these are the current guidelines the league has sent out to prospective players and their agencies. Let’s delve into those details.

USFL Player Contract/Handbook

Player Compensation

Mini-camp/Training Camp – $600 per week
Regular Season/Active Roster – $4,500 per week, payable no less frequently than in bi-weekly installments.

* $45,000 for the regular season, 10 games.

• Regular Season/Non Active Roster – $1,500 per week
• Regular Season Roster – $4,500 per week if active on Game Day
• Win Bonus – $850 per win for players on the Active or Practice Squad on Game Day
• Championship Game Bonus – $10,000 to each player on the Active Roster of the winning
team. Players on the Practice Roster, Injured Reserve, Suspended list do not receive a win bonus.

Maximum possible salary: $75,750 for an active player throughout the entire season, counting camp weeks and if undefeated through the championship game.

Contract Length

USFL Player Contracts begin when signed and end under three specific provisions.

  • 1) If a player is not selected in the Draft
  • 2) when a player is cut
  • 3) on December 31, 2022.

USFL Option Year

  • Each player contract also comes with a USFL option to extend it for an additional year, from January
    1, 2023, through December 31, 2023; the player must agree to this extension upon signing their initial contract. The player will be notified of the USFL’s desire to extend by April 30, 2022. By extending, the player will receive health insurance through 2023. The option is not a guarantee of employment for the following season.

Health Insurance

A group, health insurance plan will cover players.

The details, per the USFL Player Handbook, will be distributed by the league to its players during training
camp.

If players are injured performing services under their USFL contract, they are required to file a Workers
Compensation claim in the state of Alabama, and the league will pay all medical expenses provided that the hospital and physician(s) are approved or selected by the USFL.

USFL Non-Compete Clause

• Once a player is signed and plays with the USFL, they are locked in for the full season through the USFL championship game. After the season ends in the summer, they can sign with a team in the NFL only, provided they notify the USFL and provide a copy of the contract.

As a practical matter, the NFL and its teams will require the USFL to release players from their contract
before working out or signing a player. The process is rarely simple, and there are quite a few hurdles typically involved in making that transition a smooth one. Releasing a player from his contract for a workout won’t ensure said player an NFL job, and by freeing them contractually, the player could pivot and play for another league instead if they don’t land with an NFL team. So it can be tricky which players under contract the USFL willingly releases.

Other than the NFL, contracted players will not be allowed to sign/play with any other league while under contract with the USFL. That means leagues like the CFL, XFL, and any other potential competing spring football entities are off-limits.

Sources close to the league suggest that the USFL’s coaches will also have a similar clause in their contracts to prevent them from leaving after the 2022 season to the CFL, XFL, or any other non-NFL league.

Once upon a time, the Alliance of American Football had a similar preemptive strike to attempt to lock in their players to three-year deals before the XFL could arrive on the scene.

Player Housing


• Mini-camp/Training Camp – housing and meals will be provided to all players. Either through housing, a housing stipend, meals, or a meal expense allowance.
• Regular season – Players will need to find their own means of housing. Discounted housing at hotels designated by the USFL will be made available at the rate of $150 per night. Incidental hotel charges such as room service, WIFI, and movies, incurred are solely the player’s responsibility.

Many players and agencies who have received this contract and player handbook information from the USFL hope that the league amends this.

The cost of league-designated housing at select hotels for players during the season would be approximately $4,500 per month or one week’s pay. Clarification is still needed from the league on
whether that is per room or per person. The latter option would enable players to split the housing costs potentially in half.

Education Plan

The USFL has partnered with accredited online universities Strayer University and Capella University
to enroll in a tuition-free/debt-free college degree program.

What’s not known now is whether classes need to be enrolled in and
completed while players are under contract to the USFL or if this opportunity extends beyond that for some time. Notwithstanding that, this education plan can be very beneficial for the players who qualify.

  • Update: The league reached out to let me know that that USFL athletes remain eligible for the education benefit at Capella and Strayer even if they leave the USFL, as long as they remain enrolled continuously each quarter.

Player Conduct/Rules & Restrictions/Drug Testing

The USFL has several standard league policies in place for their contracted players.

Some of the notable regulations;

  • If a player has any existing marketing, endorsement, sponsorship, or licensing agreements in
    place, they or their agencies must disclose those to the League at the time they sign their
    contract.
    • The USFL has a comprehensive Drug Policy which includes both substances of abuse and
    performance enhancing substances.
    • Every player assigned to the USFL his individual name, image and likeness rights for
    merchandising, endorsements, promotions, and practice/event/game footage.
    • Every player is obligated to stand during the national anthem per the Player Handbook.

Final Thoughts/Potential Big-Name Players

Notwithstanding the USFL not covering housing costs for 360 of their players during the season. Which would cost the league millions of dollars if they exercised that practice from late March until July.

You have to ponder whether or not the USFL’s dealings with Birmingham, where the league has promised the city added hotel business during this coming spring, is playing a role in why they are not covering that expense for the players. After all, business guarantees were part of the deal to convince Birmingham to become a hub site and effectively act as a launching point for the league.

The most significant factor in the USFL’s long-term growth is Birmingham. FOX sports found a willing, and some would argue, a desperate partner to help them showcase their league to prospective team owners and sponsors.

Ultimately, that’s the USFL’s goal in 2022. Build up a strong TV product that helps sell their league to buyers who can help shoulder the heavy financial burdens that pro football leagues incur. Call it the MLS model if you choose, but there’s a method to what some may consider madness, attempting to buck history and make an alternative pro football league work.

It’s no accident that the USFL chose the specific market names that they did. After all, since the league and its teams are not playing in their actual cities in year one of its launch, one could surmise, why not just name two of your cities, San Antonio and St. Louis. The two most successful non-NFL pro league sites in the last few years.

The answer is simple; the USFL has what they feel are prospective buyers lined up for the city names they chose. Several sources have indicated that Birmingham, Houston, and New Jersey might be the first teams in the league to secure ownership groups. The league is willing to stay in Birmingham, as long as they have to until all franchises are sold. If that means three teams moving into their markets in 2023, while the others remain in Birmingham for the foreseeable future. The USFL will keep pushing along.

As for the player salaries, all things being equal, notwithstanding players being on their own when it comes to housing. The average USFL salary is a respectable one for a first-year league. The win-bonus system is terrific, and it’s something adopted from the original XFL and then passed on to the last iteration of the XFL. Player motivation has never been an issue in these types of leagues. But the added incentive gets the teams to play harder and rewards them for success.

Playing pro football on major networks is a huge selling point for the players who will play in the USFL. Many of whom will be players who participated in the Spring League and others who have been on the outskirts of the NFL, hoping for a chance. The USFL’s salary base and “Option Year” structure is a sound business decision with the XFL on the horizon.

The USFL plans to skew towards the younger inexperienced pro player rather than attempt to bring in veterans, which would be challenging because the latter player is accustomed to making six figures plus.

Attracting college-level players is one of the main goals of the USFL. Offering free education could assist in achieving that mission. And it would certainly bring some attention to the league. But at the end of the day, it’s going to take more than a few transfer portal players, some recognizable coaches, and being on two major networks to attract the mainstream sports and football crowd.

To that end, the USFL has designs on signing young quarterbacks with name recognition in football circles. To accomplish that, the USFL may have to borrow another page out of the XFL playbook and sign quarterbacks to contracts above the league’s average salary.

How far the USFL will be willing to go in terms of salary could determine how far the league goes in 2022.

In recent weeks, one of the names that I have heard is in contention for a potential spot in the new USFL is former St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. Sources indicate that there is interest from both sides. As is always the case, it will all come down to compensation.

Four of the XFL’s quarterbacks in 2020 are currently on NFL rosters. Taylor Heinicke, Josh Johnson, PJ Walker, and Tyree Jackson. Jordan Ta’amu was one of the first XFL players to jump to the NFL after starring in the league. But after two seasons of bouncing on and off, NFL practice squads with Washington, Kansas City, and Detroit. Jordan would love a chance to get back on the field and showcase his skills rather than play the NFL equivalent of an extra.

The USFL could be a perfect match for Jordan Ta’amu. And vice versa.

Another quarterback who could pique interest is former Ole Miss star Chad Kelly. And the young signal-caller and former Indianapolis Colts draft pick is the type of player that would be a perfect fit for the USFL. Not only is he a young quarterback, who hasn’t gotten an opportunity to sink or swim by playing games in the NFL, but Kelly’s tale and journey is precisely the type of redemption story leagues like the USFL can thrive on.

Chad Kelly also has natural ties to the original USFL. His uncle, Hall Of Famer Jim Kelly, once dominated the United States Football League with the Houston Gamblers before starring with the Buffalo Bills.

For die-hard followers and supporters of the spring pro football concept. The USFL has our attention. Can the league expand upon that and draw in some of the people who will be missing football a week from now. Their next moves and the league they display in their opening week could determine that.

Be sure to join our XFL Discord server and connect with other XFL fans.

I am a credentialed reporter and writer. Over time, I have covered and followed the NFL, NCAA, and multiple football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, CFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. 4th&long

    February 7, 2022 at 8:28 pm

    Mike

    Is that March 31st (in your article) or March 21st for start of camp? – Thx

    • Mike Mitchell

      February 7, 2022 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out. It’s the 21st obviously. Corrected. So many big details that sometimes it’s the little ones that get overlooked. The number 3 is too close to 2 on the keyboard.

      Thanks for checking out the article,
      Mike

  2. 4th&long

    February 8, 2022 at 1:17 am

    NP, glad to see they didn’t cut out 10 days… only 2 weeks till player selection – getting real… I see the hub and you having a busy spring! Good stuff.

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