As week 18 comes to an end in the NFL season many USFL and XFL players made their final appearances after playing almost 12 consecutive months of football. With over 170 players earning contracts from the 2022 and 2023 seasons coupled with players from 2019 and 2020 from the AAF and XFL 2.0, Spring Football players continue to make an impact in the present while also setting their eyes on the future.

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Daniel Whelan Punter Green Bay Packers DC Defenders

Whelen was the first 2023 XFL player to appear in a game and be signed to the active roster from the 2023 XFL. Whelan provide a stabilizing presence in the Packers Special Teams Unit, enroute to their playoff berth.

Lucky Jackson Wide Receiver Minnesota Vikings DC Defenders

Jackson was one of the XFL’s most dynamic players enroute to earning a contract in the NFL. He’d be elevated for three games appearing on special teams and could be in line to compete for a bigger role in the offense in 2024. Jackson would finish the year on the Vikings 53-man roster.

Chris Blair Wide Receiver Atlanta Falcons DC Defenders

Blair originally started out with the Falcons on their injured reserve list before finding a spot on their practice squad in late September. Blair would appear in one game for Atlanta finishing out the season on the practice squad.

CJ Brewer Defensive Line Tampa Bay Buccaneers Houston Roughnecks

Brewer was a quick signing to the Bucs at the completion of the XFL season. He’d spend the majority of the season on the Bucs Practice Squad spending 17 out of the 18 weeks of the NFL season.

Jack Heflin Defensive Line New Orleans Saints Houston Roughnecks

Heflin was a fringe NFL Defensive Lineman who earned All-XFL honors from the 2023 season with the Roughnecks. Heflin would sign with the New Orleans Saints appearing in one game registering a tackle for the Saints in 2023.

Luq Barcoo Defensive Back Pittsburgh Steelers San Antonio Brahmas

Barcoo was highlighted several times during the XFL season being amped up by former Head Coach Hines Ward. Barcoo earned All-XFL honors for San Antonio spending the majority of the season on the Steelers practice squad.

Ben DiNucci Quarterback Denver Broncos Seattle Sea Dragons

DiNucci had several offers for NFL teams before signing with the Broncos, fighting his way on to their Practice Squad. The former Cowboy would be activated for several weeks and announced last week that he will be signing with the Broncos on a futures deal for the 2024 season.

Barry Wesley Offensive Lineman Atlanta Falcons Seattle Sea Dragons

Wesley was injured for the back half of the season on the practice squad injured reserve in 2023. Wesley appeared in Seven games for the Sea Dragons and recently was offered a futures contract for the 2024 season.

Niko Lalos Defensive Lineman New Orleans Saints Seattle Sea Dragons

Lalos was another fringe NFL Defensive Lineman who upon a successful season in the XFL, found his way on the Saints Practice Squad. Lalos remained inactive for the whole season and may “double dip” in 2024 in the UFL to continue his NFL career.

Austin Faoliu Defensive Lineman Seattle Seahawks Seattle Sea Dragons

Faoliu was originally on the Seahawks Active Roster however had his status moved due to an injury. The former Oregon Duck was active on November 6th, and placed on the team’s practice squad. Faoliu was elevated twice for the Seahawks, appearing in One game while recording a tackle.

Lukas Denis Defensive Back Atlanta Falcons St. Louis Battlehawks

Denis took his talents to the IFL before spending the 2023 season with the St. Louis Battlehawks. The former arena player found his way onto the practice squad of the Falcons joining spring league players like LaCale London, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside, and Frank Ginda on the team.

LaCale London Defensive Lineman Atlanta Falcons St. Louis Battlehawks

Another Alt-Football player to the Falcons, London was one of the first XFL 2023 players to appear in a game when he was elevated to the Active Roster. London performed admirably in the Falcons Defensive Line rotation totaling 13 tackles for Atlanta in his 2nd professional season in the NFL.

Jaryd Jones-Smith Offensive Lineman Washington Commanders St. Louis Battlehawks

Jones-Smith was a favorite to many in St. Louis, and those who followed the AAF. Jones-Smith was a staple at LT for St. Louis and spent the entire NFL season on the Commanders practice squad.

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Matthew Gotel Defensive Lineman Atlanta Falcons San Antonio Brahmas

Gotel received an elevation in week 18 however did not play in the Seahawks final game. Gotel had a stint with the Falcons in August before joining Seattle.

Michael Bandy Wide Receiver Denver Broncos Houston Roughnecks

Bandy a “Spring League” veteran bounced on and off the Broncos Practice Squad for what seemed to be the whole season. Despite being in a sort of “limbo” Bandy did manage to appear in One NFL game for the 2023 season and should easily be brought back for 2024.

Bruce Hector Defensive Lineman New York Jets Arlington Renegades

Hector had a bit of slow start in the 2023 NFL season bouncing between the Jets and Texans Practice Squad’s. Hector eventually would be elevated several times appearing in Two games totaling 5 Tackles on the year.

Jacques Patrick Running Back New York Jets San Antonio Brahmas

Patrick was another XFL 2020 veteran who came back to the league with the San Antonio Brahmas in 2023. Patrick had stints with the Broncos, and Titans before finally landing with Jets on their practice squad in the middle of December. Patrick was offered a 2-Year Futures deal with New York early Monday morning.

A.J. McCarron Quarterback Cincinnati Bengals St. Louis Battlehawks

One of the faces of the league, McCarron was signed by the Bengals in September eventually getting signed to the 53-Man roster as the team’s backup Quarterback. McCarron appeared in Two games for the Bengals going 4/5 for 19 Yards in his first appearance in an NFL game since 2020.

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Drew Plitt Quarterback Cincinnati Bengals Arlington Renegades

Plitt returned to the Bengals mid season after the team released Reid Sinnett among injuries to Joe Burrow. Plitt who spent 2022 in training camp with the Bengals, was able to finish the year with Cincy on their practice squad, earning his first paychecks as member of the NFL.

Nate Meadors Defensive Back Pittsburgh Steelers St. Louis Battlehawks

Meadors had Two NFL stints in 2023, and even signed his LOI to return to the Battlehawks before a late season call sent him back to the NFL. Meadors spent training camp with the Browns before being released by the Cleveland in August. Meadors would then sign a contract joining the practice squad of the Steelers for the final weeks of the season in hopes of joining the team on a futures deal.

XFL Short Stints:

Jordan Thomas( TE/DE Battlehawks/Guardians) who made the transition from Tight End to Defensive End/OLB spent several weeks with the Carolina Panthers but was released at the beginning of December. Additionally, Marcell Ateman (WR Battlehawks), Brian Hill (RB Battlehawks), Reid Sinnett (QB Brahmas), Jontre Kirklin (WR Roughnecks), John Parker Romo (K Brahmas), Brad Wing (P Brahmas), Alex Matheson (LS Battlehawks), Mathew Sexton (WR Vipers), and Martavis Bryant (WR Vipers) all spent time on NFL teams whether it be their Active Roster or Practice Squad.

Brad Wing made major news by appearing in two games for the Steelers due to an injury suffered by Pressley Harvin III. It was Wing’s first NFL game since 2017 highlighting his path from substance abuse to sobriety.

Several players like Charleston Rambo (WR Guardians), and Brandon Dillon (TE Vipers) were waived or given injury designations, allowing them to have some sort of income from the NFL.

Final Thoughts:

With the NFL season coming to a close, many of the players from the XFL 2023 season will now wait to see if they have been retained by their 2023 employers. With the UFL cutting 8 teams many of these players not retained may not have a “home” to go to. Regardless, the XFL was able to see 68 of it’s former players earn NFL contracts with players from 2020 still earning opportunities because of the league.

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Patrick Rifino

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