All eight XFL teams have had busy offseasons since the 2023 season ended in May. The D.C. Defenders added 14 players through the XFL rookie draft, the league just concluded its three-day combine in Texas after multiple player showcases across the country, and now D.C., along with the rest of the XFL’s teams, has claimed the rights to some notable veteran pro free agents.
Contracts for the 2024 XFL season for drafted or claimed players who opt to play in the league are not expected to be signed until late in the 2023 calendar. The window for potentially signing with NFL teams is open for all potential incoming rookie and veteran XFL players.
The claiming of veteran players by XFL teams is another layer to the league’s off-season process. One that will be continuous and fluid heading into 2024.
The XFL is expected to conduct at least two more player drafts later this year. One comprised of NFL cuts and veteran free agents in October, and then a supplemental draft of a similar pool of available players before minicamps and training camp commence on the road to a 2024 season.
D.C. DEFENDERS’ ROSTER ADDITIONS
|7/28/23||Tabyus Taylor||RB||Roster Addition|
|7/28/23||Enrique Yenny Romero||PK||Roster Addition|
|7/28/23||Kelvin Harmon||WR||Roster Addition|
|7/28/23||Gareon Conley||DB||Roster Addition|
D.C. Defenders Claim Four Veteran Players
Of the four new players added to the team’s defacto negotiation list is 2017 first-round draft pick Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.
The Buckeye standout was selected by the Raiders in 2017. Conley has played four seasons in the NFL for the then-Oakland franchise and the Houston Texans. Conley has 26 career starts, registering 94 career tackles, four interceptions, and 29 passes defended.
The lanky 6-foot cornerback with 4.4 timed speed coming out of college has had his fair share of stops and starts in his pro career. Injuries and heightened expectations certainly played a part in Conley not realizing his full potential.
The 28-year-old Ohio native would provide excellent value to a Defenders team who ran into depth issues in the league’s championship game. A pairing of Conley with league standout Michael Joseph (surprisingly not signed yet by an NFL team) would make for a formidable outside cornerback duo to Gregg Williams’s aggressive press-man defensive scheme.
WR Kelvin Harmon, the Liberian born, former 2019 sixth-round selection of Washington’s NFL franchise, is no stranger to the DMV area. The first-team All-ACC wideout spent three seasons with Washington, amassing 30 receptions for 365 yards in reserve duty. The 6’2, 215-pound NC State pass-catcher saw his NFL career derailed by injuries, including a torn ACL in 2021 with Washington. Harmon was eventually let go last summer.
In the last two months, the Defenders have seen three top wideouts from 2023 sign on with NFL teams. Chris Blair (Atlanta Falcons), Lucky Jackson (Minnesota Vikings), and Brandon Smith (Arizona Cardinals). Another key contributor for D.C., Josh Hammond, has had recent NFL workouts with teams such as the Denver Broncos.
Therefore, the Defenders’ are definitely in the market for receiving talents like Harmon, who can help replace the team’s departed standouts if they don’t return to the league in 2024.
Tailback Tabyus Taylor is an intriguing diamond in the rough acquisition by D.C. The 6′ 225 bruiser had a very productive collegiate career on the small-school level.
First at Virginia Union, Taylor rushed for 2,888 yards and 31 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per rush. He also registered 63 receptions for 638 yards and five touchdowns through the air. At VU, Taylor also contributed as a kick returner, averaging 29.1 yards per return.
Taylor played three seasons at VUU before transferring to Notre Dame College of the NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference.
Taylor made quite the impact in five spring games, rushing for 1,040 yards on 9.7 yards per carry.
Taylor ran for 12 touchdowns and added a 13th on a 95-yard kickoff return, helping the Falcons to a 5-0 record and the conference title.
In his final college outing, Taylor rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the University of Charleston.
Taylor was named Mountain East Offensive Player of the Week in three of the five spring outings.
The Panthers star has turned heads since turning pro, playing in the Champions Indoor Football League for the Wyoming Mustangs. Tabyus Taylor was the 2022 CIF Offensive Player Of The Year, scoring 22 touchdowns.
The Defenders surprisingly have not seen the XFL’s most productive back Abram Smith latch on with an NFL team as of press time. Smith has tried out for the Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders. The team is also very high on last season’s late-year pickup Cam’ron Harris. But Taylor could emerge as a legit factor in Fred Kaiss’s diverse rushing attack next season.
The final potential addition is international kicker Enrique Yenny Romero. The 6’2 Mexican-born specialist has been a superstar kicker and punter in Liga de Futbol Americano (LFA)—a multiple-time all-star and league-leading scorer. Yenny was also drafted by the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes and spent a season in Canada on their practice roster before returning to LFA with Pioneros de Queretaro.
Enrique Yenny is known for having a powerful leg. The 2019 first-round pick by Osos de Toluca has the record for the longest punt in LFA history (94 yards) and the longest field goal in league history at 60 yards. He booted field goals of 60, 59, and 57 yards in one season alone. Yenny also holds the record for the longest converted field goal in the playoffs (52 yards).
Yenny’s ability to handle kicking and punting duties is an asset and could be a roster saver for the Defenders, who may have to replace all-league punter Daniel Whelan, who has signed on with the Green Bay Packers.
AS OF PRESS TIME, 35 XFL 2023 players have signed contracts with NFL teams. More league players could get opportunities as the summer rolls along. Or perhaps some of the XFL’s top players on NFL rosters could cycle back into the XFL for the 2024 season.
Nevertheless, teams like the Defenders leave no stones unturned during the offseason bridge to year two of the revived XFL. They are looking for difference-makers to add to a very impressive roster.
One of the positives to year two in the XFL is that some teams have firmly established their core identities and, like D.C., will return their leaders behind the scenes, on the sidelines, and the field. People like Defenders Director of Player Personnel Von Hutchins and head coach Reggie Barlow have laid strong foundations.
As a result, The Defenders, who fell one step short of a championship in 2023, despite any potential star losses to the NFL, have a chance to be better in 2024.
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