The NFL season is underway and with no preseason games to showcase their skills 2 XFL defensive backs, Kenny Robinson and Saivion Smith, have worked their way onto different NFL practice squads. Initially a 3rd DB, Josh Hawkins was able to make the Atlanta Falcons practice squad, but as of Tuesday, he is now a free agent.
Although a few of the XFL’s top defensive backs have now moved on, plenty of talented players are still available who may seek a roster spot upon the league’s return.
A large portion of players who took part in the XFL 2.0 are expected to return, but who could we see as some of the potential new faces targeted by the league this time around?
Ross Cockrell – CB
Ross Cockrell may land himself on an NFL team if mid-season injuries require replacement players, but in the case he doesn’t, he’d be a great veteran leader in the XFL. Cockrell was a 4th round pick (109th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in 2014. He signed a 4-year rookie deal but was released the following preseason.
In Sept 2015, Cockrell was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers and received significant playing time, appearing in a total of 15 games, starting 7 of them. Over the course of the year, he totaled 44 tackles, 11 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.
The next year he snagged the starting spot across from William Gay and signed a 1-year extension with the Steelers. During the 2016 season, Cockrell racked up a career-high of 62 total tackles and 14 pass deflections in 16 starts and went on to make his first postseason appearance.
In Sept 2017, Cockrell was traded to The Giants following the Steelers signing of Joe Haden. He played out the season in New York, appearing in 16 games, making 9 starts, recording 3 interceptions and 11 pass deflections.
When his contract expired with New York, Cockrell went on to sign a 2 year deal with the Carolina Panthers. Sadly he suffered a broken left tibia and fibula, requiring surgery. Two days later, he was placed on IR for the rest of the season. He returned to play in 2019, having another decent season but the Panthers chose not to resign him and he became a free agent in March 2020.
Cockrell visited the New York Giants during training camp but currently remains unsigned. Given he does not get picked up by an NFL team, he is a very solid player who could bring some veteran experience to XFL secondaries.
Steven Parker – S
Steven Parker is one of the younger players on this list at 24 years old. He signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent in April of 2018 and was waived at the end of training camp. He resigned to the practice squad for the remainder of the season but was subsequentially cut during the 2019 preseason.
In Sept 2019, Parker was claimed off of waivers by the Miami Dolphins where he was able to make his NFL regular-season debut. He finished the year with 20 tackles, 3 passes defended along with 2 interceptions in 14 games played, starting in 4 of them.
During the 2020 offseason, Parker was claimed by the Minnesota Vikings but waived about 2 weeks later and currently remains a free agent. At only 24 years of age, he could easily have a lot left in the tank. For Parker, the XFL would be a fantastic opportunity to continue developing and showcasing his skills in live games.
Damarious Randall – S
Damarious Randall may be a bit of a stretch. As a veteran player with a pretty solid resume, he has a good chance of being picked up by an NFL team sometime during the season. I’m not sure he would fit within the XFL’s budget either, but assuming he does, XFL fans would gladly take him.
Randall is a former 1st round pick (30th overall) for The Green Bay Packers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Despite playing safety in college, he was drafted with plans to play corner, finding a spot as the number 3 CB behind Sam Shields and Casey Hayward. The following year Hayward departed and Randall was able to snag the starting corner position across from Shields, later taking Shields place when the Packers chose not to resign him for the 2017 season.
In March of 2018, the Packers agreed to trade Randall to the Cleveland Browns for DeShone Kizer (a potential XFL QB prospect in my opinion) and a swap of both 4th and 5th round draft picks. He was with the Browns until the end of 2019 when his 5th-year option had expired.
After not being resigned by the Browns, Randall entered free agency and in April 2020 and was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders, only to be released before the final roster cuts.
During his 5 years in the NFL, he managed to accumulate 290 total tackles, 14 interceptions, 47 pass deflections, 2.5 sacks, and 2 defensive touchdowns in the regular season, gaining another 23 total tackles and 2 interceptions in 5 total postseason games.
An NFL team is likely to sign Randall if a player gets injured during the season, but in the case that he does not find a new home in the NFL, he could add some serious veteran leadership and experience to an XFL lockerroom. Randall is also a more well-known player, given his playing history and high draft status, he would likely bring some attention to the XFL with him.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun – S
Briean Boddy-Calhoun has been around the NFL since 2016. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars but his time with the team was short-lived. He stayed with them for the duration of the preseason but was later waived during the team’s final roster cuts. The following day he was claimed off of waivers by the Cleveland Browns.
Boddy-Calhoun shined in his NFL debut against the Miami Dolphins, finishing the game with 6 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Despite his valiant effort, the Browns lost the Week 3 matchup 24 – 30.
He played a total of 3 seasons with Cleveland and in 43 games played, 21 of which he started, Boddy-Calhoun totaled 43 tackles, 1 sack, 19 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and a touchdown, along with 6 QB hits and 4 tackles for loss. Needless to say, he had a good run with the Browns, but following the 2018 season, he went on to test free agency.
During the 2019 offseason, Boddy-Calhoun was signed by the Houston Texans, subsequentially being cut at the end of the preseason. About 2 months later the Texans resigned him, although he only saw playing time in one game before once again being released. In his lone appearance with Houston, he gained 2 total tackles, a sack, and forced a fumble.
Boddy-Calhoun was a free agent for about another month until he was signed by the Colts in mid-December 2019. He appeared in their final 2 games of the season, totaling 11 tackles and a sack, but was not resigned. About 1 month ago he worked out with the Chicago Bears but currently remains in free agency.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun has shown that he can produce in the NFL. He has not had a ton of opportunities but he has surely made the most of the ones he’s been given. If he was to land himself on an XFL roster seeking a full season of playing time, I’m sure he would be capable of playing at a high level.
Clayton Geathers – S
Clayton Geathers is another veteran player who may want to look to the XFL if an NFL team doesn’t come calling. Geathers was selected (109th overall) in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, where he has spent the entirety of his NFL career.
During his rookie season, Geathers was named as the second-string free safety and found himself a decent bit of playing time. The following year in 2016, he began the season listed as the starting free safety before fracturing his foot in training camp. After missing a few games due to his foot injury, Geathers finished the season with 59 total tackles and 5 pass deflections in 9 games, starting all 9 of them.
In the 2017 offseason, Geathers underwent surgery to repair a bulging herniated disk in his neck, landing him on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. Upon his recovery, he was named the backup free safety behind Darius Butler for the remainder of the season. Geathers was limited to only playing in 5 games, starting 1 of those, and finished the 2017 season with only 8 combined tackles.
Following the firing of head coach Chuck Pagano at the end of the 2017 season, the Colts brought in former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as their new head coach. Under the new regime, Geathers was able to earn his way into the starting strong safety position for the 2018 season. He racked up a career-high of 89 total tackles, 3 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, and 1 tackle for loss in 12 games played and started.
Geathers resigned with the Colts in March 2019 playing in 15 games and starting 10 of those. He totaled 54 tackles, 1 pass deflection, and 1 interception. At the end of the 2019 season, his contract with the colts expired and he has been a free agent ever since.
With plenty of years of professional experience under his belt, and at only 28 years old, he probably has a few years of football left in him. If he is unable to land himself another spot in the NFL, given his background the XFL would gladly take him.
Ken Crawley – CB
Ken Crawley has spent the majority of his time in the NFL with The New Orleans Saints, signing as an undrafted free agent to a 3-year deal in 2016. After a heated position battle, he was named the third cornerback on the depth chart that season, finishing his rookie year with 39 total tackles, 8 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery in 15 games, starting in 5 of them.
In 2017 Crawley was named the starter alongside P.J. Williams, following an injury to Delvin Breaux. In 13 games played he finished the season with 52 combined tackles, 17 pass deflections, and got his first career interception. In 2018 he remained one of the starters and in 10 games he gained 31 total tackles and 6 pass deflections. Crawley was released by the Saints in Oct 2019.
Shortly after leaving the Saints, Crawley was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins. He played 5 games of the 2019 season for Miami but after an injury was placed on IR for the remainder of the season.
Crawley spent a bit of time during the 2020 offseason with both the Las Vegas Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals but did not make either of the team’s rosters or practice squads. Currently, he is a free agent hoping for another shot.
The lack of NFL preseason really hurts players like Crawley, having only seen game action with the Saints. I’m sure the Raiders and Cardinals would have loved to see him in the preseason. With his playing history, Ken Crawley is a player who would likely be able to shine in the XFL, given the opportunity.
Blake Countess – S
Blake Countess is listed as a safety but has been most successful on special teams in his career thus far. Countess was selected (196th overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft but was cut during the preseason at final roster cuts. A few days later he was signed to the practice squad of the Los Angeles Rams.
In November he was promoted to the active roster and capitalized on the opportunity, returning two kicks for 51 yards and recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown in a 35-23 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. For his performance, he was able to earn himself the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award. Countess ended up spending 3 seasons with the Rams totaling 54 tackles, 3 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions starting only 4 of his 43 games played.
Following his 3rd season with the Rams, Countess entered free agency. In May 2019 he was once again signed by the Eagles only to be waived in the preseason. During Oct 2019 Countess was claimed by the New York Jets where he remained for the rest of the year. He dressed for 6 games that season but saw no playing time and in March 2020 he was released, now in free agency.
Countess likely has some good play left in him at the age of 27 and If he’s looking for another shot in a starting lineup, the XFL may be the route for him. The XFL was quite literally designed to help give players another shot at professional football, Countess has NFL experience but by the looks of things many NFL teams may have counted him out as much besides a special teamer. With a full season in a starting lineup, he could build up the film he needs to jump back to the NFL if he desires.
Cordrea Tankersley – CB
Cordrea Tankersley was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 3rd round (97th overall) of the 2017 NFL draft. He signed a 4-year deal with Miami and going into his rookie year was listed as the 5th cornerback on the depth chart.
Following the first few weeks of the season, Tankersley made his NFL debut. He would get his first start against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, matched up against Michael Thomas for the majority of the game. Obviously this was no small task but despite the challenge, he performed very well, allowing only 4 of 7 completions for 36 total yards. He was even congratulated by Drew Brees for his performance following the game.
After his debut performance, Adam Gase stated that he would keep Tankersley in the starting cornerback position across from Xavien Howard. He finished up his rookie year with 31 total tackles and 7 pass deflections in 11 games and 11 starts.
In November 2018 after a decent start to the season, Tankersley was placed on IR after suffering a torn ACL in practice and did not play for the remainder of the season. In August 2019, while still recovering from his torn ACL, he was placed on the reserve/PUP list to start the season and did not play at all that year. In late July of 2020, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and 7 days later activated then immediately waived from the team. Since then, Tankersley has had tryouts with both the Colts and the Lions since but currently remains in free agency.
Tankersley has been a productive cover corner against some of the best the NFL has to offer. If he can play anything like did before his ACL injury then he would make a prime candidate for the XFL. If he’s not 100% yet, the XFL could help him get back to playing at full speed.
Prince Amukamara – CB
Prince Amukamara may be another long shot for the XFL. He’s getting a bit older (31) and we don’t know if he would fit into the league’s budget. Historically, Prince has demanded pretty high salaries from NFL teams, however, If he continues to pursue football and can’t land himself on an NFL team, he’s another player who could potentially bring the spotlight and add some veteran leadership to an XFL defensive back room.
Prince was drafted to the New York Giants in the 1st round (19th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft, and was the second cornerback selected off the board. New York signed him to a four-year, $8.18 million contract with 90% guaranteed. He held out longer than any player from the 2011 draft class and in Aug 2011, he was sidelined indefinitely after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during practice. He returned later in the season, finding playing time in 7 games but starting none of them. That year he totaled 14 tackles, 3 pass deflections, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery.
He played out his entire contract with New York and they even picked up his 5th-year option. He battled injuries on and off yearly but despite his injury trouble, he was very productive for New York. Over 5 years with the Giants, Amukamara was able to play in 55 games, 45 of which he started. He totaled 261 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 43 pass deflections, and 7 interceptions.
Following the 2015 season, The Giants decided not to resign Prince and he moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars signing a 1-year contract and snagging the starting nickelback position. He continued to battle a hamstring injury causing him to miss a few weeks but was able to start 12 games for the Jaguars, getting 49 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 6 pass deflections. Jacksonville did not resign him and after the 2016 season, he once again tested free agency.
After his stint with the Jags, Prince signed a 1 year deal with the Chicago Bears in 2017, where he was able to impress and earn himself a 3-year contract extension. Although he was locked up for 4 years, he was released in February of 2020 following 3 productive seasons in a move to create more cap space.
During the 2020 offseason, Amukamara was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders but was released in late August and now sits in free agency. As a veteran with a solid track record, he will likely get a call by an NFL team if players go down with injuries, but if he remains jobless he may decide to seek the XFL. As mentioned previously, historically Amukamara has asked for pretty high paying contracts so he may not be affordable, but one can hope for a veteran like Prince to bring the spotlight and take on a leadership role in the XFL.
Cyrus Jones – CB
Last but not least we have Cyrus Jones on the list. Jones was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round (60th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. He finished his rookie regular season appearing in 10 games with only 7 tackles, but was an occasional return specialist as well. He gained 180 yards on returns but also fumbled five times.
His Patriots went on to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, but sadly Jones was inactive for the game. In 2017 he suffered a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus in the final preseason game. Jones was later put on IR for the remainder of the season and was waived the following preseason.
He was signed to the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens on Sept 3, 2018, but a few weeks later the Patriots re-signed him only to be waived yet again on Oct 6. Two days after being waived, he was picked up by the Ravens again. In Week 12 he returned a punt 70-yards for a touchdown in a 34-17 win over the Raiders, earning him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Jones was released during Nov of 2019. A day after being cut by the Ravens for what was now the second time, Jones was picked up by the Denver Broncos. A few weeks later he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list and is now a free agent.
Jones has battled injury for years which may make him less appealing to some NFL teams. If Cyrus wants to show off he can still play at a high level, he may want to consider the XFL. As long as he’s able to stay healthy, Jones could be an immediate threat in the return game while continuing to expand his skills as a cornerback.
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