After 19 years of dormancy, the XFL returned this winter, bringing fresh faces and a fresh set of rules to an eager, football-hungry fan base.
But, only five weeks into its season, the XFL was forced to shut down on Friday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is committed to returning “in 2021 and beyond,” but for now hundreds of players are out of work.
Starting Monday, though, players are free to sign with NFL or CFL teams. Here’s a look at five players who, based on experience and recent performance, could be ready to jump to a new league.
QB: P.J. Walker
UPDATE: The Panthers are expected to sign Walker, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
If the XFL was handing out an MVP award, Walker would be the rightful recipient.
The 25-year-old led XFLers in passing yards (1,338) and touchdowns (15), while finishing second in quarterback rating (104.4). On the ground, he added another 99 yards and a score.
In college, Walker played at Temple for coach Matt Rhule, who happens to be the current head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
There may not be a fit for Walker in Carolina, after the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater, but the Seahawks, Cardinals and Broncos have reportedly shown interest.
Can't wait to see @pjwalker_5 back on the field again
— XFL on FOX (@XFLonFOX) March 18, 2020
QB: Josh Johnson
After being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Johnson bounced around 13 organizations in a span of 11 years. He went 1-7 as a starter with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions, which might explain all the movement.
But in the XFL, Johnson posted the league’s best passer rating (106.3), while finishing just behind Walker in touchdowns and yards.
He’ll be 34 in mid-May, which might discourage teams to bite. But having loads of experience can’t hurt.
WR: Cam Phillips
Phillips put up eye-popping numbers that dwarfed all other XFL receivers, which helped him win XFL Player of the Week three times.
He hauled in nine touchdowns, while keeping himself consistently effective, posting at least 60 yards and a touchdown in four of the five weeks.
The 24-year-old, who was first-team all-ACC in his senior year at Virginia Tech, showed tons of promise and will certainly be on the radar of several teams. After a two-game stint with the Buffalo Bills in 2018, it might be time for Phillips to have another shot.
DB: Kenny Robinson
No one in the XFL has a story quite like Robinson. He got booted from West Virginia after two seasons for committing a student code of conduct violation involving academic fraud.
At 21, with college eligibility remaining, Robinson is still eligible for the NFL and CFL drafts.
Around the time Robinson considered transferring schools, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. That led him to the XFL, which allowed him to continue playing football while making money to help his family.
Robinson was a first-team all-Big 12 safety in 2018. In two college seasons, he had seven interceptions, two touchdowns and 123 total tackles.
He continued filling the box score in the XFL, with two interceptions, two tackles for loss, a sack and 21 total tackles.
DB: Will Hill
Think of any pro football league you can. Chances are, Will Hill has played in it.
He’s had a cup of coffee in the NFL, CFL, Arena Football League, Alliance of American Football… and now the XFL, where he finished top-three in solo tackles, tackles for loss and interceptions.
Hill turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, so he likely doesn’t possess the 4.4 speed from his earlier days.
It’s also worth noting that his CFL tenure ended poorly. In 2017, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats released him due to character concerns, shortly after Hill was fined for forcefully grabbing an official during a game.
Of course, Hill must prove that he can put that behind him. But like the rest of the players on this list — and several others who deserve another shot at professional football — his resume and recent performance mean he deserves a chance.