While virtually the entire sports world has come to a standstill, the NFL offseason is still trucking along. Every team in the league is trying to improve their rosters wherever they can; that improvement, however, doesn’t only come from signing stars. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Carolina Panthers have been looking for depth in one unusual place: the XFL.
With the XFL’s inaugural season suspended, players have been allowed to sign deals with any interested NFL teams. Will those moves prove that the upstart league is a legitimate source of football talent?
The new XFL’s attempts at credibility
In the year 2001, the original XFL tried to bring some extreme, pro-wrestling-style flair to football. In reality, however, those changes proved to be distracting gimmicks rather than exciting innovations. The new XFL seemingly took that lesson to heart.
While the 2020 incarnation did feature some notable rule changes, the league tried to keep things pretty normal. Although teams lined up in a different kickoff formation and could choose to go for three points after a touchdown, the game was still recognizable as football. Replacing the coin toss with a sprint for the ball, it seemed, was a thing of the past.
Although the season was cut short, that strategy seemed to be a success. While TV ratings dropped off week by week, the numbers were far from awful. The XFL’s kickoff rule also garnered attention, with everyone from college coaches to the NFL’s competition committee taking notice.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Carolina Panthers take a shot
In theory, most XFL players were hoping to prove that they could make it at the NFL level. At least two men may be getting that chance.
P.J. Walker, who most recently played quarterback for the Houston Roughnecks, is reportedly heading to Carolina to join the Panthers. While the club recently acquired Teddy Bridgewater to run their offense, Walker looks like he’ll slot in as the back-up; Carolina traded away Kyle Allen, and their new head coach, Matt Rhule, worked with Walker at Temple.
The Kansas City Chiefs also poached an XFL quarterback, working out a deal with Jordan Ta’amu of the St. Louis BattleHawks. It goes without saying that he has no chance to steal the starting job; if anything, Ta’amu will be hoping to make the team as the third-string quarterback.
Do those signings prove the XFL is legitimate?
P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu getting a shot with NFL clubs is definitely a great story. Saying that those two players prove the XFL is a legitimate feeder league is a bit optimistic.
Both quarterbacks played for reputable college programs and spent time with NFL teams, at least in training camp. Playing in the XFL probably helped assuage the Panthers and Chiefs’ concerns, but both teams were probably at least superficially familiar with their new signings.
While it will take more success stories—either in the form of additional signings or an XFL player becoming a legitimate contributor on an NFL team—to make the new league a legitimate source of talent, Walker and Ta’amu may have legitimized the process for other players caught in limbo. If those two quarterbacks were able to use the XFL to convince the Panthers and Chiefs to give them a chance, there’s hope for everyone else who’s trying to play on Sundays.
Two non-starting quarterbacks aren’t going to turn the XFL into a legitimate league overnight, but they could get the ball rolling. If players believe the league will help them get a look-in with an NFL team, they’ll keep playing. The longer the new XFL survives, the better its chances at legitimacy become.