Birmingham Stallions Load Up On Free Agents, Adrian Martinez

Birmingham Stallions Load Up As Free Agency Winds Down

There are now fewer than 100 days until the USFLXFL kickoff. While we do not yet know all the details about the merger, it does seem we are reaching an inflection point for rosters. Four USFL and four XFL teams appear to be on their way out, and their players will soon be reallocated in a series of drafts and signings. Until then, teams have had a final opportunity to sign free agents. The Birmingham Stallions have taken full advantage of that opportunity, signing six players over the past week.

DE Carlo Kemp

The first signing is a familiar face from the USFL. Defensive end Carlo Kemp was the second defensive end drafted in the inaugural USFL Draft. He was drafted by and played for the Pittsburgh Maulers, living in Birmingham for the inaugural season. The Maulers struggled that year, but Kemp was a bright spot on the defense. The edge player racked up 51 tackles over the regular season—third most on the team. He also added five tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one pass deflection.

His performance in 2022 was good enough to earn him a spot on the Los Angeles Chargers training camp roster. Unfortunately, he was cut at the end of camp, but he re-signed with the team as part of its practice squad. He spent all last season on the Chargers practice squad but was cut again at the end of the 2023 preseason. Kemp, who will turn 26 on January 1st, returns to the USFL with the Birmingham Stallions and will look to again establish himself as one of the best edge players in the league.

WR Amari Rodgers

The Stallions also added wide receiver Amari Rodgers. Rodgers played college football at Clemson, where he went to four straight College Football Playoffs from 2017-2020, including winning it all in 2018. He was a three-year starter at wide receiver and returner for Clemson despite tearing his ACL during the spring of his sophomore year.

Rodgers’ best season was his senior year when he was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. That season he had 77 catches for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. His efforts earned him First-Team All-ACC honors. He finished his time at Clemson with 181 receptions for 2,144 yards and 15 touchdowns plus 529 punt return yards and one punt return touchdown.

Rodgers was a top receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft and was selected 85th overall. The Green Bay Packers took him during the third round. Unfortunately, Rodgers had trouble hanging onto the ball in Green Bay and was cut in 2022 after several fumbles on punt returns. He was claimed off waivers by the Texans and finished the season there.

The Texans cut Rodgers midway through camp this summer. The Colts picked him up, and he eventually was placed on their practice squad. Unfortunately, he was cut in late October. No NFL team has since signed him, so he opted to join the Stallions. As it has for many other players, the USFL will give Rodgers a second chance at jump-starting his professional career.

DE DaMarcus Mitchell

The Birmingham Stallions signed a second defensive end in DaMarcus Mitchell. Mitchell started at a community college before finishing his college career at Purdue. In two years there, Mitchell had 59 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four pass deflections.

Mitchell was not drafted out of college, but he did sign with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. He had such a solid preseason that he was moved to the active roster for the 2022 season. Over that year, Mitchell mostly contributed on special teams. He was cut late in camp this past August and picked up by Seattle. However, his time there only lasted two days. Now, he will look to contribute to the Stallions in the USFL and earn a shot back in the league.

DT Jaylen Twyman

The Stallions signed another defensive lineman in defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. Twyman has a fascinating story. He played college football at Pittsburgh where he exploded onto the scene in 2019. That year he had 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. He was the first interior defensive lineman to lead Pittsburgh in sacks since Aaron Donald. For his efforts, he was named Second-Team All-American and First-Team All-ACC.

He chose to return to Pitt after the 2019 season, but after COVID-19 struck, he chose to opt out of the 2020 season and enter the 2021 draft. Not playing in 2020 likely hurt his draft stock, but Twyman was still drafted in the sixth round by the Minnesota Vikings. However, a month after being drafted, Twyman was shot four times: once in the arm, leg, buttocks, and shoulder. He was able to recover from his injuries and made the Vikings practice squad. However, he was released partway through the season in 2022. He finished the season on the Dolphins practice squad.

Twyman had a fantastic preseason with the Dolphins in 2023. However, it was not enough to secure a spot on the Dolphins roster. Twyman was cut at the end of camp and has not since been picked up by another team. He signed with the Stallions and will look to continue his journey in Birmingham.

OT Alex Taylor

On the other side of the ball, the Stallions signed offensive tackle Alex Taylor. Like Twyman, Taylor has taken a long, winding path to reach this stage in his journey. He was a basketball player growing up and did not play football until his junior year of high school. Despite the late start, Taylor (6’8, 300) had enough potential to sign to play football in college. He started at Appalachian State. However, after one year there, he chose to leave to play college basketball at South Carolina State.

Taylor was on the SCSU basketball team for two years before deciding to return to football. He joined the SCSU football team and earned Third-Team All-MEAC honors in his first year back. His senior year, he was named First-Team All-MEAC.

He went undrafted in 2020 but signed with the Cleveland Browns. He saw some playing time for the Browns in 2020 but was released at the end of camp in 2021. He then signed with the Bears and was on their practice squad for a few weeks before being released again. He ended up back in Cleveland to finish out the 2021 season, again seeing some playing time. In 2022, Taylor spent some time on the Browns practice squad before being cut a month into the season. The Cowboys picked him up, and he finished the year on their practice squad.

Taylor spent part of the 2023 season on the Cowboys practice squad but was cut in October. Now, he has landed in Birmingham and will look to compete for a spot on one of the best offensive lines in the USFL.

QB Adrian Martinez

There were some questions about what the Stallions were going to do at quarterback heading into 2024. Former USFL MVP Alex McGough is gone, playing for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Former Stallions starting quarterback J’Mar Smith is back and expected to be the starter in 2024. But besides him, there was 2023 backup Jalen Morton and former All-USFL selection Kyle Sloter on the roster. Would the Stallions be content to enter the season with those three on the team? Or would they shake things up?

We got our answer in the signing of rookie quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez started his college career at Nebraska and was a four-year starter there. Martinez had a fantastic freshman campaign, throwing for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and also running for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named a Freshman All-American and Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.

Martinez received a great deal of hype heading into his sophomore year, but the next few years did not pan out quite as expected. The Cornhuskers had a disappointing 2019 season, finishing 5-7. 2020 was impacted by COVID-19, and Martinez and the Huskers played a shortened schedule. In 2021, Martinez threw for 2,867 yards and 14 touchdowns, but Nebraska finished 3-9, becoming the first team in FBS history to lose nine games by single digits. Even though he was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten again, the rough go of things led Martinez to transfer for his final year of eligibility.

Martinez ended up at Kansas State where he split time with Will Howard. Martinez and Howard led the Wildcats to a 10-4 record and a Big 12 Championship. Martinez had a great year, especially on the ground. He ran for 627 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also threw for 1.261 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception. He was named Honorable Mention Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year and Honorable Mention All-Big 12 for his efforts. He finished his time in college with 9,752 passing yards, 2,928 rushing yards, and 96 total touchdowns.

Martinez’s resume did not go unnoticed by professional scouts. He was drafted in the second round of the inaugural USFL College Draft by the New Jersey Generals as the 15th overall pick. Because New Jersey lost their first-round pick for violating league rules, Martinez was actually their first overall pick in the draft.

A couple of months later, Martinez went undrafted in the NFL Draft. However, he was signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. He stuck with the Lions throughout preseason but received little playing time and unfortunately did not make the active roster or practice squad.

Since the New Jersey Generals will not be in the new merged league, Martinez’s rights were available for anyone to claim. Head coach and quarterback whisperer Skip Holtz and general manager Zach Potter must have liked what they saw in Martinez because they swooped in to sign him before free agency closed. It remains to be seen how Martinez fits into the Stallions’ plans for 2024 and beyond, but he is an intriguing dual-threat prospect who adds more depth to the Stallions quarterback room.

Change on the Horizon

The Birmingham Stallions roster has now ballooned to 63 players. With players being told that only 42 players will be able to be protected before the initial roster reallocations, it will be interesting to see who the Stallions protect and who they put up for grabs. Cutting down a loaded roster by over 20 players is no small task, and clearly Potter has his hands full with this one. Stay tuned as we continue to keep you up to date on all rosters heading into the inaugural USFL-XFL season.

What are your thoughts on all of these signings for the Birmingham Stallions for 2024? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

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