Alex Singleton has achieved the seemingly impossible by returning to the NFL from the CFL and forging a solid career with two teams. Singleton went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft before signing with the Seattle Seahawks. He failed to make the roster during final cutdowns and signed with the New England Patriots.
After being cut by New England, Singleton spent the season on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad, although he failed to make an appearance. After opting into the CFL Draft, the linebacker was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders with the sixth overall selection. During his three years with the Stampeders, Singleton was a revelation, winning the CFL Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year award in the 2017 campaign and a Grey Cup triumph with Calgary in 2018.
He signed off his career in the CFL on that high note and was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike his previous attempt, Singleton made the Eagles’ roster and played for three seasons, developing into a reliable starter in the heart of the defense. The Denver Broncos came calling on a one-year deal in 2022 and he proved enough to earn another three years with the AFC West outfit after recording 163 tackles throughout the campaign. Singleton is one of the success stories of the CFL, which has been overlooked in the past as a route back into the NFL.
Singleton’s success will catch the eye in Canada, especially for Stampeders fans, who will have watched him excel in Calgary for three years. The growing popularity of the NFL allows fans not only to track Singleton, but also bet on the league, even though Singleton’s current side the Broncos are well out of the reckoning in the odds to win the Super Bowl in 2023 at +4000. Singleton is paving the way for other players to believe they can return to the NFL from the CFL. Several intriguing players could be next.
Peters went undrafted after the 2019 NFL Draft, but was signed to the Indianapolis Colts’ roster as a free agent. He lasted only a matter of weeks before being waived with an injury settlement and he then spent a year out of the game completely. The Toronto Argonauts signed Peters in 2021 and the defensive back made a bright start to his career, only to be sidelined by a knee injury in the second half of the campaign. Peters returned to the fold in the 2022 season and had a breakout year in the secondary.
He notched six interceptions in 15 games in the Argonauts’ push toward the Grey Cup. Peters was a crucial part of the Argonauts’ defensive effort that held the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in check to allow them to secure the Grey Cup in a narrow 24-23 win. The 26-year-old’s skills have been noted by the Atlanta Falcons, who signed the defensive back to a futures contract, and he will have a chance to compete for a roster spot during the off-season program to attempt to re-ignite his career at the highest level.
Mauldin was drafted by the New York Jets in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2015. He had a solid first two seasons with the Jets, although his first season was almost marred by a neck injury after sacking Johnny Manziel. Fortunately, Mauldin suffered no serious damage and went on to play 15 games and totaled four sacks. The linebacker failed to kick on in his second campaign and was limited to 11 games and two sacks.
An injury ended his career with the Jets after three seasons and he was subsequently released ahead of the 2018 campaign. The Hamilton Tiger Cats signed Mauldin for the 2019 season, and he played two underwhelming years before moving to the Ottawa Redblacks. Mauldin enjoyed a resurgence in the 2022 campaign, mustering 17 sacks in 18 games. He won the CFL Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year award, emulating Singleton. Mauldin has not been signed by an NFL team for training camps, but he could be on their radar in the near future should he enjoy another strong season for the Redblacks.
Schoen went undrafted in 2020 out of Kansas State but was signed by the Los Angeles Chargers. He spent all of training camp with Brandon Staley’s men, only to miss out on the final cutdown. Schoen signed with the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2021 off-season and spent the entire summer working with Patrick Mahomes and company, but again missed out on a spot on the full roster after being waived. Washington signed the wideout to their practice squad, but he was then cut and then suffered the same fate with the Chiefs later in the term.
The 26-year-old signed for the Blue Bombers for the 2022 CFL season and produced a sensational season working with quarterback Zach Collaros. Schoen won the CFL Most Outstanding Rookie award after notching 1,441 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 18 games. He continued his level of production in the playoffs, only to lose the Grey Cup to the Toronto Argonauts.
Schoen still had a solid outing in the Grey Cup with three receptions for 78 yards, but he could not stop his team from sliding to a narrow defeat. The wide receiver’s performances were noted by several NFL teams, but he has yet to sign a deal. There is still time and he has a great chance to latch on ahead of training camp. Look out for Schoen in the NFL next season.
McManis has flirted with regular NFL action but has also managed two games in the league after spending three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. In a familiar story for CFL players, McManis went undrafted out of Memphis in the 2016 Draft but was picked up by the 49ers as a free agent. He earned a spot on the practice squad in the final roster cuts and stayed there until the penultimate week of the term when the linebacker was called onto the 53-man roster, and played in the 49ers’ win over the Los Angeles Rams, However, he failed to stick on the roster for the 2017 campaign and moved for the first time into the CFL with the Stampeders, where he was solid for three seasons before he got the nod to return to the NFL with the Saints in 2020.
McManis failed to make the roster, but did sign a futures contract for another try for the 2021 campaign. It ultimately ended in disappointment with New Orleans, although he did spend a portion of the term on the practice squads of both the Saints and the Miami Dolphins. McManis returned to the CFL for the 2022 campaign and played the best football of his career for the Argonauts in their drive to the Grey Cup. He mustered 88 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and one touchdown in 14 games for Toronto, although he missed the Grey Cup due to injury. McManis has signed up again for the Argonauts, but NFL teams looking for a veteran linebacker will certainly have him on their shortlists.
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