The offseason generally marks the time when players rest, but teams jump right into free agency and draft preparations. It has been a pretty consistent cycle for years, but football fans are being introduced to new wrinkles in 2019 and 2020 in the form of several new football leagues. The XFL is slated to make its return in 2020, but the new kid on the block is the Alliance of American Football, which will be kicking off in just a few weeks. It isn't yet clear just how this new spring league will be viewed by teams. Is it viewed as a 'lesser’ league, like the CFL and Arena, scouted from afar but not taken too seriously? Or is it going to be treated as it was intended, as a sort of developmental league for fringe NFL talent? Recent quotes from the Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn suggest the latter.
“So, I hope this one, or the other ones kind of stay in business because it can really be helpful to these fringe players that might be on a practice squad, might be capable of being on a 90-man roster, but just need more playing time,” Quinn said during last week’s press conference.
The AAF’s inaugural season begins in early February. We’ve already covered some of the Detroit Lions ties before, with one of the new teams, the San Diego Fleet, boasting a general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator, and other position coaches with Lions ties.
In fact, the new league features several peculiarities in regards to how they roster players that are affected by the Lions. When players sign with the league, they are assigned a team based on the college they attended or the NFL or CFL team they played for. To that note, players who once played for the Detroit Lions and sign with the AAF will become members of the San Diego Fleet. By coincidence, players who played for the Lions sister team up north, the CFL’s BC Lions, are also allocated to San Diego.
It isn’t just about being eager to see a new league develop, though. The AAF has taken strides to ensure they are viewed as a legitimate outlet for their players to the NFL. In fact, the first overall selection in their QB Draft (another peculiarity that was a lot of fun to watch first hand) was Josh Johnson, who would later sign with Washington and play a few games. The AAF has garnered attention from various NFL decision makers, including Quinn, who said, “We’re going to actually send some of our scouts down there. They’re open for us to come down and evaluate. We’ll get their film once they start playing their games in February and March, so we’re going to scout them, yeah, for sure.”
The league has eight teams for its first season:
San Diego Fleet
Notable Players: Alex Barrett , Al-Rasheed Benton, Michael Bercovici, Gavin Escobar, Dontez Ford, John Montelus, Bishop Sankey
San Antonio Commanders
Notable Players: Arthur Brown, David Cobb, Kurtis Drummond, Malik Earl, Matt Godin, Speedy Noil, Daryl Richardson, Zack Sanchez
Notable Players: Josh Allen (No, not that one. Or the other one), Terrance Bullitt, Chunky Clements, John Crockett, Thomas Duarte, Joseph Fauria (!), Trevor Knight, Rahim Moore, Will Sutton
Notable Players: Austin Appleby, Jerome Couplin, Tre Dempsey, DeAndre Goolsby, Scott Orndoff, Freddie Stevenson, Azeem Victor
Notable Players: Matt Elam, Tayo Fabuluje, Christian Hackenberg (Hackenwatch continues!), Zach Mettenberger, Sam Montgomery, Reggie Spearman, Channing Stribling, Brad Wing
Salt Lake Stallions
Notable Players: Austin Allen, Matt Asiata, Kaelin Clay, Matt Linehan (son of current Cowboys and former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan), Jeremiah Poutasi
Notable Players: Busta Anderson, Ryan Anderson, Aaron Cox, Ty Isaac, Nick Novak, Lawrence Okoye, Weslye Saunders, Devin Taylor
Notable Players: Vontae Diggs, Chase Farris, Garrett Hudson, Bug Howard, Jeff Luc, Denard Robinson, Matt Simms