The rebooted XFL is about a month into its season, and despite rumors in the run-up to the league’s debut that it might be interested in signing controversial former NFL quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Johnny Manziel, neither player is in the league.
Signing either of those guys would have given the league a much-needed publicity boost as it looked to attract fans to stadiums and TV for its games, but instead, the XFL is relying on quarterbacks like Cardale Jones and Landry Jones to draw fans. The commissioner of the XFL, Oliver Luck, has explained why Kaepernick isn’t in the league — and the answer probably won’t surprise you.
XFL 2.0 vs. XFL 1.0 and the NFL
The second incarnation of the XFL is more football-focused than the original XFL from nearly 20 years ago and less gimmicky than the first time around. Last time, players were identified on their uniforms by nicknames — including the infamous He Hate Me — but this time their last names are on their uniforms.
The league eliminated the “opening scramble” from the 2001 version of the XFL to determine who gets possession at the start of the game, and TV broadcasters are using traditional football announcers to call the games, rather than WWE personalities as was the case in the XFL 1.0.
One of the major rule differences between the XFL and the NFL is the lack of a PAT kick. Instead, after a touchdown teams can go for one, two, or three points by trying to score from the two-, five-, or 10-yard line, respectively.
Kickoffs in the XFL are done from the 30-yard line, instead of the 35 as they are in the NFL. The XFL also allows the offensive team to throw multiple forward passes, as long as the ball doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage, which the NFL does not.
Colin Kaepernick and the XFL
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, though he held a workout for teams in Atlanta in November. Nothing came out of that. He was rumored to have an interest in playing for the short-lived Alliance of American Football (AAF) last year, but he reportedly asked for a $20 million salary, which the league — which didn’t even make it to the end of its only season — balked at.
And the 32-year-old former 49er still seems to be returning to the gridiron in some form. There seemed to be mutual interest between Kaepernick and the XFL for him to join the upstart league, but it hasn’t happened yet — and it looks unlikely to at this point.
Why Colin Kaepernick isn’t in the XFL
Luck addressed Kaepernick in an interview with NPR. He confirmed that the league “gave it some thought,” regarding the possibility of signing the NFL vet, but the league has “some pretty significant salary restrictions” and wants to be “fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent.”
Without going into details, Luck said league representatives spoke with Kaepernick’s representative and “the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of [the XFL’s] range.”
Kaepernick reportedly sought $20 million from the AAF to join that ultimately failed league last year. If he was in that same range in conversations with the XFL, there likely wasn’t much to discuss. The average player who is on an XFL roster all season can expect to make between $43,890 and $66,100.
If Kaepernick was looking for anything close to what he wanted from the AAF, it was likely a non-starter as it would basically blow out the XFL’s budget for player salaries. Would the league reconsider Kaepernick if he lowers his salary demands? Luck is unsure.
He says it “was well over a year ago” that they initially talked to Kaepernick’s team about a possible deal, and the commissioner doesn’t know “what kind of shape” Kaep is in.