The XFL has an opportunity to take advantage of CFL players opting out of their contracts.
Monday was the first day that CFL players can opt-out of their contracts after the 2020 CFL season was canceled. The league left the option to the players’ to give them the opportunity to potentially try out and sign with NFL teams. Another league could be interested in available CFL players: the XFL.
A similar situation has occurred with college football players opting out of the fall season due to COVID-19. It has given the XFL an opportunity to potentially reach out and sign players from college. With the CFL having players opting out, the XFL could have the opportunity to sign them as well.
Here is a list of CFL players who have opted out of their contracts that the XFL should go after.
Potential XFL Player Pool From CFL
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Quarterback
After going undrafted in 2011, McLeod Bethel-Thompson bounced around multiple NFL, arena football, and other professional football leagues. Bethel-Thompson signed with the Toronto Argonauts as he was their backup quarterback for three seasons.
2019 was a breakout season for Bethel-Thompson stepping in for the injured James Franklin. While the team suffered a losing season, Bethel-Thompson threw for 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was resigned to take over the starting quarterback job for the Argonauts.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Bethel-Thompson opted out of his contract to pursue the NFL.
Bethel-Thompson is 32 years old but is starting to hit the prime of his career. The XFL has already lost two quarterbacks to the NFL with the loss of P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu. Should the NFL pass on Bethel-Thompson, he would make for the perfect candidate for the XFL and could be the next Josh Johnson.
Ricky Collins Jr., Wide Receiver
The CFL saw Ricky Collins Jr. have a breakout season with Edmonton in 2019. Collins racked up 78 receptions, 1,103 yards receiving, and three touchdowns in 17 games last season. Before last season, he had played with two other teams in the CFL since 2016.
Collins showed some great skill set at receiver. He can make the tough catches while showing strong hands. Collins has also proven to be a polished route runner in the passing game. He excelled in the slot for Edmonton and can show off the speed on deep routes.
Collins was poised for another big season with Edmonton before making the decision Monday to opt-out of his contract. The NFL should give him some looks with his skill set and is just 28. If the NFL passes on Collins, don’t be surprised if the XFL comes calling to bring in a talented receiver to their league.
Wynton McManis, Linebacker
The Calgary Stampeders lost a rising linebacker in Wynton McManis which could be a gain for the NFL or XFL. Despite spending 2017 and 2018 mostly on special teams, McManis had a big 2019 season. He recorded 86 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
At 25, McManis is still developing as a linebacker and has shown progress in the past three seasons. He’s already proven that he has a high motor with great tackling skills. Calgary was looking at him as a defensive player to build their defense with in the future.
The XFL could really use a linebacker like McManis and would be a perfect fit. Will he get some eyes on him from the NFL? There should be a few teams looking at him for their special teams. The XFL could use him as a starter on defense and take another step towards the NFL.
Deon Lacey, Linebacker
While never really getting the chance to prove his skills in 2019, Deon Lacey has proved in the past how good he can be. Lacey has spent his last three seasons with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins as a backup linebacker and special teamer. Lacey has produced 21 tackles in three seasons in the NFL.
Before returning to the NFL in 2017, Lacey played with Edmonton for three seasons in the CFL. Lacey was named a CFL West All-Star in 2014. In three seasons, Lacey produced 114 defensive tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, and one touchdown. He was a key player in helping Edmonton win the Grey Cup in 2016.
He was expected to come in for the Saskatchewan Roughriders this season and pick up from where he left off in 2016. Lacey is what the XFL looks for in a player that wants a second chance at the NFL. An NFL team could look his way as a special teamer, but the XFL could see him instantly be an impact player on defense.
Sergio Castillo, Kicker
An old, familiar face to the XFL comes in the form of former Houston Roughnecks kicker Sergio Castillo. Also familiar with the CFL, Castillo converted 80 of 92 field goals in four seasons playing in the CFL with four different teams. Not only was he a successful kicker in the CFL, but also punted as well average 44.4 yards per punt.
Castillo entered the XFL winning the starting kickers job for Houston. In five games, he converted five of nine field goals with a long of 44 yards. He was also third in the league in kickoffs inside the 20 with four.
After the XFL, he rejoined the CFL and announced Monday that he had opted out as well. Given more opportunities, Castillo didn’t have as much of an opportunity to prove his accuracy as a kicker. The XFL knows what they have in Castillo and should be open to bringing him back to the league.