During the XFL’s 2020 season, we saw many players who proved they could play competitive, quality football. Standouts such as PJ Walker, Cavon Walker, Donald Parham, and others have signed with NFL teams since the league abruptly ended its inaugural season. However, many of the XFL’s best players are still unsigned, meaning they could be picked up again by the league. Here’s a few players we think should come back to the XFL when it returns.
Cam Phillips | Houston Roughnecks
Surprisingly, the XFL’s leading wide receiver is still a free agent, despite his incredible statistics. Through five weeks, Phillips recorded 31 receptions for 455 yards, including nine touchdowns. He was, by far, the XFL’s best wide receiver. With the duo of Cam Phillips and PJ Walker, Houston’s offense was absolutely lethal.
CAM. PHILLIPS. 🔥
He scores his NINTH touchdown of the season and extends the @XFLRoughnecks lead in the second half
📺: ABC pic.twitter.com/ukBS9bd5mv
— XFL on FOX (@XFLonFOX) March 7, 2020
If Cam is still unsigned by the time the XFL comes back, the league would benefit greatly from his return. While he would be without Walker, his route running savvy gives him the ability to work with almost any quarterback. This year proved that he can compete at a professional level, as he did week in and week out. The XFL would do themselves a favor if they made an effort to get him back, before another league takes him away.
De’Veon Smith | Tampa Bay Vipers
Even though De’Veon Smith was part of the 1-4 Tampa Bay Vipers, he did have an excellent season, and was one of the league’s best running backs. Between him and Jacques Patrick (who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals), the Vipers had a two-headed rushing attack that defenses struggled to contain.
Through five weeks, Smith led the league in rushing yards, with 365 on 90 carries. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry, which is an impressive stat. Smith was solid when it came to breaking tackles – very rarely did he go down after the first hit. If he is still a free agent when the XFL returns, he should seriously consider rejoining the league, especially since he saw so much success in the 2020 season.
Josh Johnson | Los Angeles Wildcats
Despite missing week 1 due to an injury, Josh Johnson ended the season as one of the league’s strongest quarterbacks. Through week 5, he had thrown for 1,076 yards, and sported a QB rating of 106.3. He also threw 11 touchdowns, as opposed to only two interceptions. With his play-making abilities, the LA Wildcats had a solid chance of making the playoffs, despite their 2-3 record. He has one heck of an arm, and can use his legs to extend plays, which we saw him do often this season.
Josh Johnson can still let it absolutely RIP
🖥 https://t.co/KmYoM9yc8e pic.twitter.com/amrT3qDG98
— XFL (@XFL2023) March 9, 2020
Johnson is an NFL journeyman, having been on 13 different teams before joining the XFL. Johnson loved being a part of the league, especially since he was able to lead the Wildcats. Being able to make a positive impact on the younger players due to his veteran experience was something he enjoyed doing. After the XFL shut down, he openly spoke about all the good the league did, and was hoping to see it make a comeback.
I grew in all aspects because of you. And for the couple games we played, fans got to see what happens when people are given an opportunity, a second shot at their dreams 🏈🙏🏽#SincerelyYours, @head8cke pic.twitter.com/PZeIlzHe8G
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) May 26, 2020
Now that the XFL is going to return, it would be a surprise if we didn’t see Johnson make it back onto a team.
Rashad Ross | DC Defenders
Rashad Ross is a player that didn’t get enough attention this season. Having been in the NFL for a few years, and a standout in the AAF’s 2019 season, Ross proved that he can be a star. During his eight week stint with the Arizona Hotshots, Ross racked up 583 yards on 36 receptions, and also scored seven touchdowns. In his 2020 season with the DC Defenders, he recorded 12 receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown. While he may not have put up incredible numbers, he had to deal with inconsistent quarterback play for most of the season.
When the XFL comes back, Rashad Ross is someone they should look to sign. With his ability to run routes as a slot or outside receiver, he is a double threat that shouldn’t be overlooked. A specific example of his talent as a wide receiver comes in DC’s week 2 match-up against the Guardians, where Ross recorded 4 receptions for 95 yards. Throughout the game, Ross made a couple excellent sideline catches on under-thrown passes from Cardale Jones. If Ross is able to pair up with a better quarterback, he has the potential to be outstanding.
Matt Jones | St. Louis BattleHawks
Matt Jones was a fantastic fit for the St. Louis BattleHawks. With his aggressive, gritty, smash-mouth attitude, he worked quite well with Jonathan Hayes’ coaching style. Through five weeks of playing, he ran for 314 yards on 80 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. While he didn’t have many long runs throughout the season, Jones was the perfect guy to wear down a defense. Pair him up with Christine Michael, Keith Ford, and even Jordan Ta’amu, St. Louis had incredible depth at the position. This is something that the BattleHawks utilized throughout the season, as they were a run-first offense.
Matt Jones, 49-yard run pic.twitter.com/cspaxGi2uO
— Arif Hasan, Search Firm Santa Claus (@ArifHasanNFL) February 23, 2020
Matt Jones is one of the first backs that the XFL should look to resign. With his strength, size, and speed, he can be very effective in the right offense, which he proved in the XFL this year. While NFL teams have shown interest in Jones, he is currently a free agent. If he remains unsigned by the time the XFL is ready to start their next season, it would make sense to bring him back.
At the end of the day, there were dozens of players in the XFL who showcased their talent this season, that still haven’t been picked up by any leagues. When the XFL does return, we should hope and expect to see many familiar faces.