By Howard Balzer
Amid the flurry of free-agent contract agreements that have dominated the headlines for the last week, the NFL found time to reach agreement with three XFL players Monday, including BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
Assuming there are training camps when late July rolls around, Ta’amu will be headed to western Missouri to go to camp with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
There might be no better place for Ta’amu to continue to develop with Andy Reid as his head coach, Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator along with Patrick Mahomes and Chad Henne ahead of him on the depth chart.
The other two players to agree to terms on the first day that XFL players were permitted to reach agreements with NFL clubs are Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker with the Carolina Panthers and Roughnecks defensive back Deatrick Nichols with the New Orleans Saints.
Ta’amu exhibited poise, accuracy and toughness in leading the BattleHawks to a 3-2 record while passing for 1,050 yards (third most in the league) and rushing for 217 (seventh best).
Contract terms aren’t available yet, but the minimum salary for players with no accrued NFL seasons is $610,000. Rosters have increased to 48 game-day active players this season under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement and there will be a two-player increase in practice squads to 12. Practice-squad pay has increased to $8,400 a week, so players that spend an entire season there would be paid $142,800.
Of course, complicating the growth of young players this year will be the probability that offseason programs will be eliminated because of the COVID-19 crisis. The strength and conditioning portion of the programs that were scheduled to begin in April have already been delayed indefinitely. Offseaonn work continues through the spring with OTAs and minicamps from late May until the first or second week in June.
Also in question is how much development there truly is for young players, especially quarterbacks and offensive linemen that receive limited reps in training camp and even less if they are on practice squads.
The NFL and the NFLPA in conjunction with the XFL should be discussing a collaboration where players in their early years that don’t get much chance to play could be permitted to play in the XFL while still remaining under contract to their NFL team.
That would be a benefit to the NFL teams, the players and the XFL.