By Alistair Fannell
NFL Training Camp 2019 has opened and ALREADY there some surprising names that were either cut, waved, not drafted or have not signed with any team, and could be playing in the XFL when the league starts up February 2020.
Mason Foster, who started 16 games with the Washington Redskins during the 2018 season and played nine seasons in the NFL, was cut just before training camp. Foster is not the only big name linebacker in the NFL that’s out of a job, players like Nick Perry, Sam Acho, Connor Barwin, and Manti Te’o are names that are not on NFL rosters currently.
Te’o is perhaps the most intriguing because he’s finished second in the Heisman Trophy race behind Johnny Manziel in 2013, along with a promising start to his career when he was drafted in the second round by the then San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers, yet injuries plagued his time in San Diego. He then played 2 seasons with the New Orleans Saints and has yet to be signed by any NFL team. Te’o could look to the XFL to restart his football career. Robert Nkemdiche, once a promising defensive lineman out of the University of Mississippi, was just released by the Arizona Cardinals at the start of training camp.
In the secondary, names like Sam Shields, Eric Berry, Mike Mitchell, Shareece Wright and Morris Claiborne come to mind. Berry, a 5-time Pro Bowl defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs, is coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, not to mention him suffering Hodgkin’s lymphoma that also sidelined him back in 2014. If an NFL team is not willing to sign him, don’t be surprised or shocked if the XFL gives him a shot. Morris Claiborne, who was a Top-10 draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys, and then started 15 games with the Jets last season could also see himself playing the XFL.
On the offensive side of the ball, there are some valuable players that could make an impact in the XFL in its first season. At quarterback, names like Brock Osweiler, Matt Cassel, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett come to mind. Jones (currently a Los Angeles Charger) and Barrett, who both lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national title in 2015, but haven’t seen their opportunity to start or play in the regular season in the NFL. Running backs like Jay Ajayi, Jeremy Hill, L.J. Scott and Chris Ivory are players that are available. Ajayi and Ivory were both former 1,000-yard backs, while Ajayi played a key role in helping the Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl during the 2017 season. Wide outs like Michael Crabtree, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, Dez Bryant could take advantage of the league’s potential offensive schemes, along with tight ends like Jermaine Gresham and Neal Sterling. The coaches and GMs of the XFL will definitely keep a close eye on all of the moves from the NFL preseason. When it’s all said and done at the end of the first week of September; you can best believe the cut list will have some high profile players that could see action in the XFL come February 2020.