It has now been a month since the last XFL game took place, and since then, over 100 XFL players have been invited to NFL minicamps and tryouts. The league of opportunity is certainly living up to its name, and things should only get better as the preseason approaches. Looking at the Houston Roughnecks in particular, there have been eight players from the 2023 squad who received the NFL “call up,” and two of them officially agreed to terms with the teams they worked out for.
CJ Brewer, DL, Coastal Carolina (Tampa Bay Buccaneers – SIGNED)
Regular Season Stats: 17 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery
Brewer was invited to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers minicamp at the beginning of last month, and since then, has been added to the offseason roster. He jumps right back into the NFL after spending part of 2022 with the Buffalo Bills, and is currently one of nine defensive linemen on the team. While it may still be an uphill battle for Brewer to get past final cuts, especially with Tampa drafting Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey in the first round this year, there is no doubt the former Coastal Carolina star is fresh and ready for the challenge.
Jack Heflin, DL, Iowa (New Orleans Saints – SIGNED)
Regular Season Stats: 25 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery
Heflin was certainly a player on the NFL’s radar, but had not been invited to a minicamp at the time of my last NFL-related article. Things quickly changed, however, as the New Orleans Saints identified his talent and offered him a contract. Similar to Brewer, Heflin was also in the NFL last season, splitting time between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. The All-XFL selection is currently one of fourteen defensive linemen on the Saints roster, facing some stiff competition in the form of first-rounder Bryan Bresee and respected veteran Cam Jordan. Interestingly, Heflin is not the only XFL defensive lineman in the building, as New Orleans also acquired Niko Lalos from the Seattle Sea Dragons.
Sage Doxtater, OT, New Mexico State (New Orleans Saints)
Regular Season Stats: 3 sacks, 2 hits, 3 hurries
Although he dealt with some injuries towards the end of the season, Doxtater was a valuable tackle who helped form one of the better offensive lines across the XFL. The New Orleans Saints brought him in alongside Jack Heflin, but he was not added to the roster. Doxtater was originally signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent last year, so there is some familiarity on both sides.
Jontre Kirklin, WR, LSU (New York Giants)
Regular Season Stats: 15 catches/253 yards/4 receiving touchdowns, 1 pass completion/49 yards/1 passing touchdown
With Kirklin still recovering from his in-season injury, his NFL opportunities were going to look a bit different. He was invited to New York Giants minicamp, but would not be participating in drills or any sort of physical activity. Instead, the invite was simply used as a way for him to meet the coaching staff and get a feel for how he might fit in, similar to what takes place during the pre-draft process. While there was a decent chance the Giants would sign Kirklin and let him continue his rehab at the team facilities, the room was already packed, with fourteen receivers currently under contract.
Deandre Johnson, LB, Miami (Cleveland Browns)
Regular Season Stats: 15 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble
Johnson was a rotational player for the Roughnecks, and did not start a single game for the team. Despite his rather limited role, he still caught the eye of some NFL scouts, and received an invite to Cleveland Browns minicamp. Johnson initially signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2022.
Max Borghi, RB, Washington State (Cleveland Browns)
Regular Season Stats: 78 carries/310 yards/6 rushing touchdowns, 21 catches/139 yards, 5 kickoff returns/123 yards
Borghi was the starting running back for the Roughnecks in 2023, playing in a familiar offense and becoming an incredibly dynamic athlete. After splitting time between the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Pittsburgh Steelers last year, Borghi is hoping a fourth team will give him a chance, with the Cleveland Browns recently showing interest.
John Yarbrough, OG, Richmond (Washington Commanders)
Regular Season Stats: 2 sacks, 3 hurries
Yarbrough was in a reserve role with the Roughnecks in 2023 (6 games, 4 starts), but stood out as a veteran in the locker room. Since first signing with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2019, he has spent time with the Tampa Bay Vipers (XFL 2020), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL), and Houston Gamblers (USFL). Even though he may be reaching the twilight of his career, Yarbrough is looking to get back in the big league four years after his first attempt.
Michael Bandy, WR, San Diego (Kansas City Chiefs)
Regular Season Stats: 5 catches, 35 yards
Bandy joined the Roughnecks in the middle of their season, and at the time, it appeared to be a monumental transaction. He had spent the previous two years with the Los Angeles Chargers, and was supposed to boost an offense that was going through a bit of a slump. Unfortunately, Bandy became banged up rather quickly, and would only appear in two games. While his XFL performances were nothing to write home about, he was still going to receive more NFL interest one way or another, which is already starting to unfold in the early weeks of Summer.
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