The Cleveland Browns need to be scouting the XFL
The Cleveland Browns found talent from the now defunct AAF, and they should be scouting the XFL to try to once again find additional talent.
The Cleveland Browns have a perfect testing ground for unsigned free agents, and it is the reincarnated XFL, the new league dreamed up by Vince McMahon which started play on February 8-9. There are likely to be a few NFL-caliber players who have been missed by the NFL scouting systems, and perhaps Browns scouts find a few of them.
There is nowhere near the talent level in the XFL compared to the NFL draft. But on the other hand, there is no draft for signing XFL players. No one automatically gets the opportunity to sign the best players. Teams are on their own as to whether they see this as an opportunity or a waste of time. Hence, an NFL team might sign zero prospects, or as many as ten.
It stands to reason that there are always players that emerge when given a chance, and the best players are going to land NFL gigs. It is up to the individual NFL teams to position themselves after the XFL season is complete, i.e., when the players are released from their current contracts.
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MIke Florio of NBC Sports was able to obtain an XFL contract template, and among other things has learned that XFL players are released from their contracts after their league championship on April 28. At that point, NFL teams can proceed to make offers.
The XFL might be a great opportunity for a player like Cardale Jones, who was a massive talent, but one who many observers felt did not get enough game reps in his college career. Former Oakland Raider Connor Cook and ex-Steeler Landry Jones are other recognizable quarterback names in the new league, even though Cook is currently the Houston Roughnecks backup quarterback. Any of those players could plausibly be signed by the Browns to compete for a second- or third-string quarterback position.
It bears mention that the first XFL had a few players succeed in the NFL, notably Tommy Maddox who played five years for the Steelers and went 15-16-1 as a starter, although most of the time he was second-string.
The same situation occurred with the AAF, which went defunct after eight games last year. However, the Cleveland Browns picked up the best quarterback in Garrett Gilbert, as well as the best running back in D’Ernest Johnson.
Johnson made a positive contribution as a kick and punt returner and also filled in at halfback a few times and didn’t screw up. Gilbert only threw the ball three times last year, owing to the good health enjoyed by Baker Mayfield. Still, Gilbert was lights out for the Orlando Apollos, and might still turn out to be another quarterback “find” by John Dorsey.
Regardless of the caliber of play in the XFL, there could be some players with enough talent to make the NFL. Generally they should be thinking in terms of nickel and dime defensive backs, situational linebackers, additional wide receivers and special teams players. It would be surprising if there is a Pro Bowl defensive end to be found, but you never know.
Put it this way, in this fan’s opinion, it would be better to have a choice of XFL talent, instead of a seventh round NFL draft pick. Some of these new XFL guys will develop into NFL starters, and the Browns would be well advised to try to find one or two, because everyone knows they can use a few additional talented players. Proactive teams will be rewarded.