Six months after its demise, I’d basically forgotten about the Alliance of American Football. Fortunately for some of its standout players, coaches in the rebooted XFL didn’t.
They also remembered guys whose college stardom is becoming a distant memory.
Wednesday was the second and final day of the inaugural XFL 2020 draft, and fans who followed the short-lived AAF will see some familiar faces when Vince McMahon’s do-over spring league kicks off next February.
Early on Tuesday the XFL announced its pre-draft quarterback assignments for the eight team circuit, and three signal callers got their most recent significant playing time in the Alliance.
The Los Angeles Wildcats signed former Birmingham Iron starter Luis Perez; the Tampa Bay Vipers picked Aaron Murray, who started his AAF career as a backup with the Atlanta Legends but finally moved to the top of the depth chart; and the Seattle Dragons hired Brandon Silvers, a product of the Memphis Express.
That trio originally inked three-year, $250,000 contracts with the AAF. Since that circuit made it through just eight weeks of its only season before going laces up, they didn’t get to cash in.
As for what they’ll make in the XFL, who knows?
For months a tiered salary model was rumored, which would include starting QBs making $225,000 for a 10-game season, some skill players getting between $150,000 and $175,000, one group earning between $75,000 and $100,000, and the last tier taking home $50,000 for a few months’ work.
For an American pro football league whose acronym isn’t NFL, that’s good money, especially when it breaks down to per game pay.
However, last week Pro Football Talk reported that, according to an XFL memo sent to player agents, the average salary will be $55,000 per player for the season (which begins December 4, 2019, and ends May 31, 2020).
Regardless, the guys who’ll earn roster spots will make a living wage for laboring less than half a year, and still hang on to the hope that a good season in the XFL might be a springboard to a full-time job in the NFL.
For example, former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a national title in 2014 and is projected to run the offensive show for the DC defenders. He was signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad this year.
Oklahoma standout Landry Jones will rejoin Coach Bob Stoops with the Dallas Renegades. He’s a six-year NFL veteran but appeared in only 18 big league games.
The other three quarterbacks placed with teams on Tuesday are Phillip Walker, Houston Roughnecks (on the Indianapolis Colts practice team from 2016-19); Matt McGloin, New York Guardians (last seen with the Kansas City Chiefs practice team in 2018); and Jordan Ta’amu, St. Louis Battlehawks (signed and released by the Houston Texans this year).
After the QB assignments the five phase draft was broken down by skill players, offensive linemen, defensive front seven, defensive backfield, and an open draft that featured all remaining players plus kickers, punters and long snappers.
Aside from the quarterbacks mentioned here there are many more known commodities at all positions. Take a look at the complete list of picks on XFL.com, and quite a few AAF and NCAA standouts are on it.
Training camp rosters will include 71 players, and the draftees were chosen from a pool of roughly 1,000 hopefuls who accepted invitations from XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck and passed standard background checks.
The fact that many of those invitations were sent to former AAF players makes perfect sense. The XFL targets players good enough to be drafted by NFL teams but (so far, at least) haven’t been good enough to stick around. The latest spring venture to live fast and die young was a mixed bag, but there were many watchable games and good performances.
For AAF veterans, the XFL offers another second chance.
And for those tired of spinning their wheels as practice squad players, it’s the opportunity to get what amounts to a new audition.
Long-term success of the new XFL is a longshot, of course. Its first incarnation back in 2001 was a monumental flop and minor league football has not yet been able to carve out a niche.
Unlike the AAF, however – which we now know was founded on shaky financial ground – the XFL should make it through its inaugural season.
A champion will be crowned and everyone will get paid.
McMahon has loads of cash, and is sinking enough of into his rebooted league to make sure it lasts as long as he’s willing to fund it.
At some point, though, he’ll want a return on his investment.
And by the end of the 2020 season, TV ratings and in-game attendance should provide some pretty good clues on whether or not he’ll get it.