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Could the USFL/XFL Merger Make for Some Interesting Quarterback Options for Ottawa?

The Redblacks needs to consider their options at Quarterback. With the USFL/XFL merge could we see them bring in a former USFL QB?

We have all but gotten confirmation that the USFL/XFL will merge, that some teams will be removed from the new league, and not all 16 will survive in 2024. We don’t know all of the teams that will get the ax yet, with Houston still in question, but what seems to be the consensus in the alternative football space is that 8 teams will be relieved of their duties, and that a dispersal draft is expected to take place afterward to distribute the players still under contract onto new rosters.

However, if the 90 man roster number is true, there still should be several quality quarterbacks coming available from the new league, some of which will likely look north for their next opportunity. In this article we will take a look at some of the Quarterbacks from the USFL that could take their talents to Canada.

Teams Expected to Get Removed

So far the consensus, which as we all know is subject to change, is that the Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, New Jersey Generals from the USFL, one of the two Houston teams, as well Seattle, Orlando, and the Vipers from the XFL. On all of these rosters is at a very minimum, at least one quarterback that should spark some interest from the CFL.

USFL Quarterbacks That Could Come Available

The Philadelphia Stars have three quarterbacks on their roster, all of which have spent time in the CFL. The most recent being Vad Lee, who had a brief stint with the BC Lions before spending the 2023 season with the Stars. Kevin Thomson ironically was with the Lions as well, for parts of 2021 and 2022 before being let go and ending up in the USFL. Case Cookus spent some time with the Edmonton Elks in 2021, but has said in recent interviews that he isn’t sure if the CFL is for him. Now things can change quickly when your team is ripped out from underneath of you.

I would expect all three of these players to garner interest from at least one CFL team, with Cookus most likely seeing multiple offers if he becomes a free agent at any point. Cookus is fairly mobile, but he is a primarily a pass-first quarterback, that could easily revive the passing attack in Ottawa. I have no doubt the Redblacks would be interested, especially knowing Cookus could be a top flight QB2 behind Masoli if Condell chooses to run with his old quarterback. If Masoli ends up injured again Cookus can step in and still play winning football, while threatening teams with his legs, and ability to throw the ball. Ottawa should also at least consider the prospect of adding Vad Lee. Lee is another player who could serve in several roles for this offense, including that short yardage quarterback role if needed, but is a viable quarterback as well who has starting experience.

2022 BC Lions Football vs Sask

Kevin Thomson is more of a question mark. While both Cookus and Lee started games in the USFL, Thomson has rarely left the bench. He spent parts of two seasons in the CFL, and my guess is he would pursue opportunities with the CFL before entertaining a return to a league that may have jettisoned his team right out from under him after just his first season.

New Jersey Generals

Right now the Generals only list one quarterback on their roster. Eric Barriere who so far has spent most of his USFL career with the Michigan Panthers, and is likely wishing he was still there. De’Andre Johnson became an unrestricted free agent following the 2023 season and has not yet signed with any teams. USFL, XFL, or otherwise. Johnson could be a great fit for the CFL style of play. His mobility on a wider field could be extremely dangerous, while his ability to push the ball deep would certainly play into that style as well.

Barriere however should intrigue nearly every team in the CFL. While Johnson is 27 years old, an inch taller than Barriere, he is also 5 pounds lighter. Now weight isn’t everything even when you’re a mobile quarterback, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to an extent. In this case Barriere may only weigh 5 pounds more, but standing an inch shorter he is a bit more stout and could stand up to some hits. Barriere is an athlete himself, and ran for 22 touchdowns in college. He also managed to throw for 122 touchdowns, while only producing 29 interceptions. He is 25 years old, heading into his third season having learned from former quarterback Eric Marty, and then under Mike Riley, and Steve Smith with the New Jersey Generals to finish out 2023. Ottawa should consider extending an offer to Barriere for 2024, although Johnson would make some sense as well.

New Orleans Breakers

The unfortunate part about the Breakers’ quarterback room is the fact that we never really got to see what they could truly be in the USFL. Arguably one of the deepest rooms in the league last season, neither of the promising backup quarterbacks really saw the field. Due to an Iron Man performance by the former Canadian football league, star, McLeod Bethel-Thompson. 

With the team going away, and all three quarterbacks now looking for a new home for the 2024 season, all attention now turns to the CFL. Many of these players will not want to wait to see if they’re chosen in the dispersal draft for fear of being left out in the cold. I would expect that every quarterback who is on a roster of a team that is expected to go away, will be doing their due diligence with CFL contract offers at the very least. 

The good news for some of these quarterbacks, is that some vacancies did open up this season due to the fact that we watched some quarterback, sign and stick with NFL teams. This includes one of the quarterbacks from the Birmingham stallions Alex McGough. It also includes men who would have been included in the dispersal draft, if not, for the NFL interest. Ben DiNucci, Aj McCaron, Reid Sinnett, and more made NFL rosters or practice squads. I would assume given the new found uncertainty surrounding the UFL, they would opt for an NFL futures deal rather than their previous home if it even still exists. 

With that mouth full out of the way, it’s almost too obvious to say MBT should be expected to make the trip back to the CFL. The USFL in 2023 was his last ditch effort to make it to the NFL, with that out of the way he can focus on whatever remains of his CFL career given his age. Aqeel Glass could be a very interesting prospect for many teams. Essentially a rookie in 2023 he ultimately didn’t see the field but got a season of coaching from the man who once led Carson Wentz to MVP consideration. At 6’5 215 lbs he should interest several teams. 

Davis Cheek is another 2022 NFL UDFA, who found his first consistent home with the Breakers after a taste of the NFL early in 2022.  Spending the 2022 offseason with the Panthers, he was coached by Sean Ryan, Ben McAdoo, and Matt Rhule. Eventually he was let go, and entered the NFL Alumni Academy. This helped him land an XFL Contract giving him some knowledge that he is potentially still wanted by teams who will survive into 2024. He ended up re-signing with Carolina before playing a snap in the XFL. Upon his release he wound up in the USFL with the Breakers. He again didn’t see the field in 2023. Could Cheek head to the CFL next? 

If Houston Gamblers Are Removed

Assuming the Gamblers are the Houston team to get removed, let’s look at the quarterbacks they have on their roster currently. One thing stands out about all three of these men that they are currently rostering, mobility. Whether it’s Kenji Bahar, Terry Wilson, or Montell Cozart, all three men have viability as runners. This plays into their seeing CFL interest given how the Redblacks have approached the position recently. From Masoli, to Adams, Arbuckle to Crum all four men can and will escape the pocket if needed. 

Kenji Bahar can look at times like he is the next great professional quarterback, he has decent accuracy but his decision making at times can be maddening. After opening 2022 as the backup to Clayton Thorson he took over late and wound up completing 61% of his passes but managed a 2:2 touchdown to interception ratio. In 2023, more of the same, slightly better completion rate, but 9 interceptions to 6 touchdowns. 

Terry Wilson who came out of last season as Houston’s QB3, saw action in just one game his rookie season in the USFL. In 2023 Wilson would end up released by the Gamblers, paving the way for them to play Montell Cozart at times. However none of the quarterbacks in Houston found much success, regardless of the coaching changes between 22, and 23. Honestly if any of these three quarterbacks gets signed by the CFL, it will likely be Cozart. 

Montell Cozart-Calgary Stampeders-24july2019: Photo Scott Grant

Cozart spent two seasons in the CFL before COVID struck. With the league cancelled Cozart was released and instead spent the next two seasons out of football before retiring in 2022 with the Birmingham Stallions as the QB3. He was traded in the offseason to the Gamblers, and after spending 2023 with Houston opted to re-sign with the team. This guarantees him a place in any potential dispersal draft, but does it mean he will be selected? Only time will tell. 

How Quickly The Conversation Shifts

At one point the conversation was focused on how the introduction of the USFL and XFL in back-to-back seasons would draw talent away from the CFL. It shifted early toward the potential of players double-dipping and playing in either of the American spring leagues, and the CFL when we watched players like Darnell Sankey, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Dakota Prukop and others request a release to pursue their options. In fact both Sankey, and Prukop went on to play in the Grey Cup having big-time performances. 

I expect this merger to be like in the past when other leagues shut down, we will see about 50% of the players shift to other leagues (CFL, overseas, indoor/arena leagues), while 15-20% retire never to play again, and the other 20-30% simply seem to wait for the next Spring League to pop up. In fact we have already seen a few former XFL/USFL names sign contracts with indoor leagues. Matt Elam of the Orlando Guardians is also now signed to the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, and he’s not the only one. The AFL may have stumbled into the best time to launch their league talent wise. 

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Sam Just Reporter
I am a writer and content creator focusing on alternative football leagues like the UFL, CFL, AFL, IFL, NAL, and AIF. If you like alternative football leagues, check out my personal platform Shady Sports Network on YouTube and all your favorite social media platforms.
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