Coming up next weekend is the first game for the newly rebooted XFL. Aside from being a welcome distraction during the pre-draft process, it gives NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate some recent draft picks that weren’t on a roster last year and some players who refuse to accept their NFL career is over.
While the on-field action, including some gimmicky rule changes, may not draw much long-term interest, the league’s organizers will hope it lasts longer than the ill-fated Alliance of American Football. Once the novelty wore off, ratings nosedived for the AAF and the league went out of business before they were able to complete the full season’s schedule.
Regardless, there’s some interest for Jets fans with some recent cast-offs and former draft picks among the official rosters for the eight XFL franchises.
Let’s take a quick look at each of these teams and their connections to Jets from the past:
The most familiar ex-Jet here is nose tackle Deon Simon, a former late-round draft pick who played in every game of the 2016 season, starting one.
Others: Darius James, Alex Balducci, Dashaun Phillips
Houston, whose defensive coordinator is former Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, has some interesting former Jets, including defensive lineman Kony Ealy. Wide receiver Jalen Saunders, a former fourth-round pick who has had some success in Canada is also on their team, along with three players who saw regular season action with the team in recent years in De’Angelo Henderson, Robert Nelson and Edmond Robinson.
Others: Jonah Trinnaman
Los Angeles Wildcats
The Wildcats have a couple of ex-Jets - Pepper Johnson and Otis Smith - on their coaching staff, but most of their ex-Jets were only with the team in camp, preseason or on practice squads. The exception is defensive lineman Anthony Johnson who was a back-up in 2016 and 2017.
Others: Josh Johnson, Nick Novak, KD Cannon, Taiwan Jones, Toa Lobendahn, Brandon Barnes, Tre McBride III, Trevon Sanders
The highest profile ex-Jet on the Dragons’ roster is former late-round draft pick Jeremy Clark. The defensive back only played a few games as a Jet.
Others: Brandon Silvers, Marko Myers, Godwin Igwebuike, Santos Ramirez, Jacquies Smith
All four of DC’s ex-Jets were only with the team in preseason or on practice squads. The most familiar names are Jon Toth and Jordan Morgan who made it to final cuts in September.
Others: Adrien Robinson, Jonathan Celestin
New York Guardians
Apart from the fact that they share a stadium, New York’s main connection to the Jets is former back-up defensive lineman TJ Barnes.
Others: DeAngelo Yancey, Victor Ochi, David Rivers
St. Louis BattleHawks
St. Louis has two ex-Jets on their roster, but one of them was cut before training camp and the other, cornerback Harold Jones-Quartey, lasted just one week on the practice squad.
Others: Sean Hickey
Tampa Bay Vipers
The Vipers also have a former Jets draft pick in offensive lineman Will Campbell. He was a former defensive lineman that moved to offense but never played in the NFL and spent most of the time since then as the Toronto Argonauts’ starting left tackle in the CFL. Defensive end Obum Gwacham is their only player to have seen regular season action with the Jets.
Others: Stacy Coley, Daniel Williams, Nick Truesdell
One of the innovative aspects of this league is the introduction of a ninth team who will practice together and fill any injury voids that arise on the other eight teams during the season. This is headlined by cornerback Derrick Jones, a former late-round pick for the Jets. The other three ex-Jets on this team were actually allocated to teams until last week, so they’ve effectively been cut already.
Others: Ryan Anderson, Korren Kirven, Robenson Therezie
Whether any XFL players will make it to the NFL next year remains to be seen. Other than a few kickers, De’Vante Bausby was basically the only AAF player to make any kind of contribution in the NFL last year. The defensive back played three early-season games, including two starts, with the Broncos. However, he ended up on injured reserve with a neck injury.
The chances of a former Jet making it back, or someone getting into the NFL and making an impact for the 2020 Jets is extremely slim, but expect the Jets to kick the tires on some of the standouts anyway. Otherwise, we can probably comfort ourselves with the fact that cutting ties with most of these players wasn’t a mistake.