2020 to 2023
The current XFL football leadership has opened the door for the possibility of the league’s players from two years ago returning by giving them automatic entry into the league’s draft pool in mid-November; a specific date will be set by the league and its media partner (Disney/ESPN) soon.
In theory, a former BattleHawks player like WR De’Mornay Pierson-El or Punter Marquette King, who both played for the team in 2020, could presumably return to St. Louis again. It would make for a fun story if some of the league’s best players from two years ago returned.
However, some players who played in the XFL two years ago are gainfully employed by other leagues, while others have moved on to the next phase of their lives off the playing field.
For example, DC Defenders RB Donnell Pumphrey, a record-breaking runner at San Diego State, has in recent days joined his alma mater’s coaching staff.
Three years is a long time in a football player’s lifespan. COVID put an end to the XFL 2020 season, and in turn, for some players, it provided a bitter and abrupt ending to their careers.
For some players in XFL 2020, primarily veterans, the league was their final hurrah playing pro football. But for many others, the XFL was a springboard that helped them extend their playing careers.
XFL 2020 Players Playing In Other Leagues
One hundred and thirty-four former XFL players from 2020 are currently on other pro football league rosters.
Twenty-seven are on NFL teams, 33 on CFL rosters, and 74 just finished a season playing in the USFL.
Other former XFL players, like WR Reece Horn, are also playing in Europe for leagues like the European League of Football.
The XFL 2020 players on CFL and USFL rosters under contract are seemingly off-limits for XFL 3.0. However, there’s a chance that some former XFL players in the NFL could make their way back to the league they played for two years ago.
In a month’s time, NFL teams will trim their rosters from 90 players to 53. Each team will add 16 players to their practice squad. When the smoke clears, 21 players per NFL team will run out of real estate; once active and practice squad rosters are completed before the regular season.
That’s 672 players who won’t land on an NFL roster to start the 2022 season. Some of those players could be former XFL 2020 participants.
It’s important to note that XFL team personnel directors and coaches are currently attending NFL training camps. No doubt in the hopes of scouting players for the upcoming XFL draft and season. Many of them are first-year undrafted players that were scouted by the XFL’s football brass already at the NFL Combine, college pro days, and the all-star collegiate talent showcases like the Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl, and many others.
It’s also worth noting that there are returning coaches and player personnel people from the XFL in 2020, like Bob Stoops, Randy Mueller, June Jones, Jonathan Hayes, Joey Clinkscales, Jim Herrmann, and others who could be looking to get some of their old players back playing for them again.
Some of the league’s best players drafted by the XFL in the fall of 2019 were on NFL teams, grinding in training camps, and playing preseason games that summer.
While the XFL was planning for their 2020 season three summers ago, PJ Walker, Donald Parham, Storm Norton, Michael Dunn, Cam Phillips, Jordan Ta’amu, and so many others were on NFL rosters fighting to make teams.
One of the most significant question marks surrounding XFL 3.0 is where most of their players will come from. The answer seems pretty clear based on what transpired in the summer of 2019.
The XFL has worked out over 1,300 players at their six showcases across the country. The league has potentially left the door open for another showcase and has one more for specialists this October. But a good portion of the 2023 XFL rosters will be comprised of players currently on NFL teams. Some of them could be familiar faces from 2020.
But for now, and for this article. Let’s look at some of the players from 2020 who are available that could be back on XFL teams again and perhaps back playing in the same cities.
XFL 2020 Free Agents
The automatic draft invitations have been sent out to XFL players from 2020. The question is how many of them will answer the call. And the ones that do, how many of them will be drafted?
Some of the invites have become public knowledge at this point simply because players from XFL 2.0 have either openly expressed their desire to be back in the league or have shared the announcement that they have accepted an invite into the draft. Talented WRs like Renegades 4.2 speedster Jeff Badet and Defenders WR Rashad Ross hope to lace up again in the XFL.
New York Guardians RB Tim Cook, who shared a backfield with other spring league standouts Darius Victor and Matthew Colburn, recently worked out for the league at the Arizona showcase running a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash.
Unlike 2019, XFL 3.0 has not publicly released the names of players who worked out for them at their six showcases. However, sometimes the identity of familiar faces from 2020 can’t be concealed.
A lot has changed since 2019; three years ago, Cardale Jones was a hot ticket item in the XFL. Almost as hot as a ticket to see Sonic 2.
Several XFL teams had the 6’5 signal-caller Jones at the top of their quarterback priority list. The former Ohio State standout, who once upon a time was protected as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft after winning a national championship with the Buckeyes, was buried on the back end of NFL rosters to start his pro career.
But the 4th-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2016 had started to show some genuine progress, albeit in preseason action with the Chargers from 2017 to 2019. However, it wasn’t enough for him to break through and move up the depth chart.
Jones eventually landed on the Seahawks practice squad in September 2019, but he was released a month later. The Dallas Cowboys offered him a practice squad position. But instead, with a chance to start and get real game reps, he signed with the XFL in October.
Things didn’t go as planned for Cardale in the XFL. He started for current Houston Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in DC. But the current QB guru, who has helped mold Davis Mills and Justin Herbert in successive NFL seasons, couldn’t work his magic with Jones. Cardale got off to a promising start but faltered, finishing the shortened XFL season with four touchdowns to 7 interceptions while completing only 54 percent of his passes.
It’s doubtful that Jones ends up as a starter this time around. But he wants back in to get another shot at redemption.
Several other notable players from 2020 are in the XFL 2022 Draft pool. Among them, RB De’Veon Smith (Tampa Bay Vipers), RB Cameron Artis-Payne (Dallas Renegades), WR Nick Holley (Houston Roughnecks), WR Jalen Tolliver (Tampa Bay Vipers), WR Jordan Smallwood (LA Wildcats), TE Nick Truesdell (Tampa Bay Vipers), LB Edmond Robinson (Houston Roughnecks), CB Josh Hawkins (Dallas Renegades), QB Eric Dungey (Dallas Renegades), RB Justin Stockton (New York Guardians), LB James Folston Jr. (Renegades), LB Terrance Plummer (Tampa Bay Vipers), WR Jazz Ferguson (Dallas Renegades), CB Jhavonte Dean (Seattle Dragons), DL Andrew Ankrah (St. Louis BattleHawks), DT Gabe Wright (Houston Roughnecks), CB Jalen Collins (Tampa Bay Vipers), LB Reshard Cliett (Dallas Renegades), WR DeAndre Thompkins (DC Defenders), CB Anthoula Kelly (Tampa Bay Vipers), DB A.J. Hendy (New York Guardians), TE Donnie Ernsberger (DC Defenders).LB Ryan Mueller (New York Guardians)
Many players on the list above have spent time on other pro league rosters since 2020. The likelihood is that some of them will be reunited with their former coaches from XFL 2020 or the DPP’s who drafted them in 2019.
528 players will be on XFL 2023 rosters when training camp starts January in Arlington, Texas. Most of the league’s rosters will come from current NFL rosters with some assistance from the NFL Alumni Academy. But the players who return to the XFL from 2020 will, in many respects, be the unsung heroes of the league because the road they have taken back has been the most challenging.
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