This week has been tough on XFL and USFL fans alike, as they watch their favorite players’ careers come to end with the NFL cutdown on last Tuesday. Only one XFL player made a 53-man roster which was former DC Defenders Punter Daniel Whelan, who beat out 9-year vet Pat O’Donnell for the Packers’ punting job.
But as Tuesday brought mostly bad news, Wednesday brought a silver lining with 17 of the 52 players cut last weekend being brought back onto Practice Squads. We’ll go Team by Team to list those players. Every team has at least one player except ironically enough, the XFL champion Arlington Renegades. Let’s get into it.
Jackson came into the XFL as a relative unknown, with his only time in professional football being in the CFL but never sticking there. He was the last pick for the DC Defenders in the skills position draft but played well enough through camp to be named a starter and was one of the biggest breakout stars of the XFL with 573 yards on 36 receptions with 5 TDs in 10 games. This play led him to getting a contract from the Vikings in May and he was able to stick on the practice squad even without a ton of preseason action due to injury. He’s a story that XFL should hang their had on, cause without the XFL he wouldn’t be here.
Dinucci was one of the more high-profile players that joined the XFL before their inaugural season having played for the Cowboys due to injury. After a few years on bouncing between the active roster and the practice squad, DiNucci bet on himself and joined the Seattle Sea Dragons. There he led the league in passing yards with 2,671 yards and 20 TD on top of that. This performance led to him being the first XFL player to sign with an NFL team when he signed with the Broncos in mid-May. Dinucci was one of the players fans hoped would make the active roster but it’s hard to keep 3 QBs and Denver opted to have him start on the practice squad this year.
Wesley was a pleasant surprise for Seattle this season. He was a mid-camp addition that was inactive for the first couple games of the season. After a few injuries, most notably starting left tackle Liam Jimmons, Wesley was forced to be Ben Dinucci’s Blindside and was the best pass blocking offensive lineman for the Sea Dragons this season according to PFF. That was enough for him to get a rookie minicamp invite and sign a contract with the Falcons. He played well enough in camp and in limited preseason action to get a chance to continue his NFL career.
Couldn’t be happier for Barry Wesley. Former CSU OT will be on the practice squad for the Atlanta Falcons. With his positional versatility, wouldn’t be shocked to see him land on the 53-man roster at some point. https://t.co/QtvqGOPq8h
Niko Lalos was a 2nd round pick for the Sea Dragons and was literally signed to the Saints practice squad hours later. He spent the rest of the season on the squad but passed on a futures deal to sign back with Seattle. He had a solid season, most notably ended the Roughnecks undefeated streak with an interception that ended their comeback attempt. Once the season was over, that spot on the saints was still open and he rejoined his old squad for the off-season. He had one of the more impressive preseason performances in week 2 when he had 3 sacks, 4 TFLs, 5 tackles, and a PD. This cemented that he was going to stick but unfortunately, it’ll be on the practice squad to start.
Brian Hill is one of the more surprising practice squad additions of this group. That isn’t about his play in the XFL though. He was one of the best backs in the league with 416 rushing yards in 8 games which was good for 3rd in the league. The surprising part of the addition was the fact that Hill was only signed only 10 days ago as of writing this. There were 18 players that signed after August 5th and Hill is the only one still in the league. This is probably due to the fact that Hill was drafted by the Falcons in 2017 where current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator so there’s some familiarity there which must play a part. Either way, it’s great to see him be able to stick around.
Marcell Ateman was a player that came into the XFL season with high expectations as he was the 2nd overall pick in the skill portion last November. He wasn’t able to fully live up to that billing as injuries caused Ateman to miss 3 games and fall behind the other targets in St. Louis like Hakeem Butler and Darrius Shepherd. Unlike those names, Ateman was able to make the most of his NFL opportunity with multiple big catches in the preseason, the oldest XFL player signed to the NFL, gets continued employment.
Jaryd Jones-Smith is a spring league veteran with time in the AAF with the commanders before a few years as a journeyman backup tackle in the NFL. After getting cut by the Ravens in 2022, Jones-Smith was in the XFL draft where he was the top pick for Coach Anthony Becht and the St. Louis Battlehawks. He was a rock for them being the highest graded lineman for the Battlehawks according to PFF. This led to another stop in the NFL with the Commanders. He now will be able to continue his football career.
Congrats to Jaryd Jones-Smith from the @XFLBattlehawks for being the 54th player of XFL 2023 to be invited to an NFL camp
"There are 53 players on an NFL roster, I was number 54.” – @TheRock
Lacale London was apart of one the best 1-2 punch defensive line duos in the league with him and Kevin Atkins causing havoc in backfields. London was a 4th round pick in the front 7 portion of the draft and outplayed that spot with 4 sacks in 10 games from the interior. This led to him getting another opportunity in the league with a little help from Falcons director of player personnel Ryan Pace who was in Chicago as their general manager when London was there. Connections aside, London had a great preseason with great grades in run defense which led to them keeping him on.
Matthew Sexton’s most notable moment was one that he probably wishes. In the final week of the regular season, Sexton was about to score an 85-yard touchdown but was stripped at the one-yard line for a touchback. Outside of pulling a Desean Jackson, Sexton had a solid year as the Vipers slot receiver. He had 23 catches for 364 yards in 10 games and got a tryout with the Falcons which led to him eventually getting signed. This led to a solid preseason performance where he showed ability in the return game along with the receiving ability. Sexton gets to be the only Viper still in the NFL.
Michael Bandy was playing in a playoff game just this year with injuries at wide receiver for the Chargers caused him to suit up. This wasn’t enough to get another NFL contract and Bandy decided to join the XFL mid-season. Because of being a late season addition, Bandy didn’t get much of an opportunity as in 2 games played, he had 5 catches for 35 yards. Bandy still got a tryout for Denver and stuck with great performances late in preseason games. A beat-up Denver receiving core could lead to playing time just like it did in Los Angeles last season.
Kirklin was one of the most entertaining players in the XFL this year. He was not only catching touchdowns, but he was also throwing them too. Unfortunately, a pec tear would end his season early after only 4 full games, but he showed enough that when he finally got healthy, he signed with the hometown Saints. That big play ability showed in the preseason with a 55 yard catch and run on a scramble drill in week 2. This led to him getting a spot which if he keeps playing the way he has, could keep him out of spring football for good.
The 2nd Roughneck to make in on the Saints practice squad, Jack Heflin was another player that was on practice squads last year, being on the Giants and Packers last season. He opted for the XFL instead of a futures deal and after an All-XFL team selection, he was able to get back into the NFL. The Saints only kept 4 interior defensive linemen on their active roster, so Heflin is one injury away from legit playing time.
DL CJ Brewer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CJ Brewer was another stud on that fearsome Roughneck front-7. Brewer was on the Bills practice squad last year after coming out of Coastal Carolina in 2022 but decided to join the XFL after getting cut. He was another solid defender for Houston that ended up getting a contract with the Buccaneers. He had a solid preseason and now will get a chance to stay around in Tampa.
Kacy Rodgers says CJ Brewer had a lot of carryover from the system he played in in the XFL to the one he’s in here. The transition has been a smooth one for him
Jordan Thomas is one of the most interesting players on this list. Thomas was a 7th round pick for the Battlehawks in the skill position draft because he was a tight end. He would be cut and end up in Orlando where he was a solid receiving option for them late in the season. When he was given an opportunity in Panthers’ rookie minicamp, it was revealed that he was making a position change. This meant he didn’t get a ton of reps in the preseason, but the Panthers clearly see potential in him as he is sticking around on the practice squad. He’s following in the footsteps of players like Tyree Jackson and Godwin Igwebuike who stuck in the league by swapping positions after playing in the XFL.
Matthew Gotel was one of the best run stuffing defensive tackles in the entire XFL last year. For months this didn’t get him the NFL opportunity he was searching for, but the Falcons gave him that spot, only for them to cut him days later. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as Gotel quickly signed with Seattle and was given a lot of reps late in the preseason. This led to this opportunity to continue to get better on the practice squad.
CB Luq Barcoo, Pittsburgh Steelers
Luq Barcoo didn’t get the Interceptions like other cornerbacks did in the XFL last season, but he lived up to being the 2nd DB off the board. Despite only having one INT, Barcoo scored an excellent 85 coverage grade according to PFF. He was completely lock down last year in San Antonio. This led to an opportunity with the Steelers where they are keeping the 25-year-old corner around for a little bit longer.
Heck of an interception by Luq Barcoo, to give the ball right back to the @XFLBrahmas.
John Parker Romo was by far the best kicker in the XFL last season. He was 17 of 19 with a long of 59 yards. This led to an opportunity with the Lions in the preseason but with the Lion offense struggling and Romo sharing time with Riley Patterson, he only got one field goal attempt and one pat attempt. When the Lions decided to bring back Michael Badgley on the practice squad, all hope seemed lost. Luckily the Bears wanted a kicker on their Practice squad so Romo will start out by trying to put pressure on the Bears kicker, Cairo Santos.