Canadian Football League

Extra Points: Rooney Rule, Booth, CFL, USFL

The NFL made more adjustments to the Rooney Rule this week. Teams must go into the season with a minority coach or a woman on their offensive staff, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com notes. This can include a woman of any race, and the NFL also will include women among Rooney Rule requirements going forward. Teams must interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach, coordinator and GM roles; women are now included in this pool. Clubs, however, will not be required to interview female staffers for these positions. The female or minority staffer hired as part of this offense-based initiative must work closely with their respective team’s head coach, Seifert adds, and their respective salaries will be paid via a leaguewide fund. The NFL has a league-record 17 minority defensive coordinators currently, with two teams employing co-DC setups, but 27 of the league’s 31 offensive coordinators (the Patriots do not currently have a staffer in this role) are white.

Here is the latest from around pro football:

  • Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth looms as a first-round prospect, but he will not be ready for his team’s offseason activities. The incoming rookie defender underwent sports hernia surgery, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. While Booth (Scouts Inc.’s No. 30 overall prospect) is expected to be ready for training camp, it will be a bit before he is healthy.
  • De’Anthony Thomas joined Oregon draft hopefuls in working out at the school’s pro day Friday, with Schefter adding the former Chiefs wide receiver/return man is aiming to make a comeback (Twitter link). A six-year NFL veteran, Thomas has not played since 2019. He was among the first to opt out due to COVID-19 concerns ahead of the 2020 season. The Oregon alum is currently on the British Columbia Lions’ roster in the Canadian Football League, signing with the team in February.
  • Staying in the CFL, Martavis Bryant will receive another chance north of the border. The former Steelers and Raiders wide receiver who battled suspensions in the NFL signed with the CFL’s Edmonton Elks, who are taking a flier on the talented pass catcher despite his refusal to report to the Toronto Argonauts’ training camp in 2021. The Argos held Bryant’s rights last year, but he is now in Edmonton. Bryant last played in the NFL in 2018, catching 19 passes for 266 yards with the Raiders. Bryant posted two 600-plus-yard receiving seasons in Pittsburgh but was suspended three times during his NFL career for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
  • Another spring league will launch this month, with the rebooted USFL beginning play April 16. The latest spring effort’s contracts are structured in a way that will make it a bit more difficult for the XFL to acquire players when its latest relaunch occurs in 2023. The USFL gave its players one-year contracts with team options for 2023, per Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal (via Mike Florio of PFT). None of the recent spring leagues — from the Alliance of American Football (2019) to XFL 2.0 (2020) — finished their respective seasons, so the matter of USFLers’ 2023 contracts is not exactly a front-burner item just yet. Some notable players — like Paxton Lynch, De’Vante Bausby, Kyle Lauletta and other ex-NFLers — are part of this centralized (in Birmingham, Ala.) USFL.

NFC West Notes: McGlinchey, Diggs, Rams, Polite

49ers’ offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey is set to play through the fifth-year option of his rookie contact this season. McGlinchey has been a bit of a mixed-bag for the Niners early on in his career. While grading out as one of the league’s better run-blockers, McGlinchey struggled early in pass protection. Just as he was beginning to show some real improvement in the passing game, McGlinchey saw his season come to an end in Week 9 of this past season after suffering a torn quadriceps.

While McGlinchey’s cap hit for 2022 will be $10.88MM, the 49ers have nothing to gain by cutting him, as the fifth-year option for a rookie is fully guaranteed. The team does hold two options to potentially avoid the 27-year-old’s cap hit: they can trade him or extend him. According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, there is a chance that the 49ers sign McGlinchey to an extension in order to create more cap space. They would be betting on McGlinchey coming back strong from his injury, but they seem to feel good about the progress in play he showed before his injury last year.

Here are a few other notes from the NFC West, starting with a note from Seattle:

  • After breaking his ankle in Week 17 of the season this past year, Seahawks’ safety Quandre Diggs is expected to be fully cleared for all football activities by June, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Diggs is set to test free agency this offseason and teams will likely take his injury recovery into account. It’s impressive progress for the 29-year-old as his doctors say he is recovering well.
  • The Rams are hiring TCU running backs coach/assistant head coach Ra’Shaad Samples as their new running backs coach, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Samples is highly regarded as one of the up-and-coming coaches in football earning his first NFL job at the age of 27. In a corresponding move, assistant head coach Thomas Brown will now be coaching tight ends.
  • Edge-rusher Jachai Polite, who spent 11 games with the Rams in 2020 after being cut by the Jets before his rookie season, has made the move to the Canadian Football League. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the former third-round pick signed a contract to join the Toronto Argonauts.

Paxton Lynch Moving From CFL To USFL

Paxton Lynch has not attempted a regular-season NFL pass since his final Broncos start, in Week 17 of the 2017 season. The former first-round pick is about to try another league.

Lynch requested his release from the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, with his agent noting the well-traveled QB eyed a path to the new USFL (Twitter links). Canada’s stricter COVID-19 regulations played a role in this exit, and Lynch will receive another opportunity as a pro.

The Michigan Panthers selected Lynch in the 12th round of the USFL draft Tuesday night. Lynch, the 26th overall pick in 2016, was one of a host of familiar names taken by the latest upstart league. Michigan selected Lynch, 28, in the second round designated for quarterbacks. He did not play in any games with the Roughriders, with that stay following non-game-action runs with the Seahawks and Steelers.

The USFL event started with a QB round, during which Michigan selected ex-Wolverines QB Shea Patterson first overall. In Round 1, recent Patterson Chiefs teammate Jordan Ta’amu — also an XFL veteran — along with ex-Giants draftee Kyle Lauletta and ex-Vikings backup Kyle Sloter were selected.

The New Jersey Generals chose cornerback De’Vante Bausby in the eighth round. Bausby has considerable NFL experience, compared to most of the other players drafted over the past two days, having played for four teams from 2016-20. Bausby enjoyed two stints with the Broncos, making 20 tackles in 10 Denver games in 2020. He finished the 2021 season on the Patriots’ practice squad.

Ex-Packer wideout draftee J’Mon Moore landed with the Generals as well, and former Titans third-round pick Taywan Taylor went to the New Orleans Breakers today. The Breakers also drafted ex-Washington supplemental draftee Adonis Alexander, a defensive back. Fellow NFL supplemental draftee Isaiah Battle, a tackle, went to the Pittsburgh Maulers on Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Bandits also selected ex-Raiders second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

The USFL’s second effort, after a memorable mid-1980s run, is set to begin play April 16. All games will be played in Birmingham. The championship game is scheduled for July 3, in Canton. Should the USFL’s second effort reach the championship game, it would surpass 2019’s Alliance of American Football and 2020’s second XFL iteration. Both recent spring startups folded before their seasons ended, though a retooled XFL is set to return in 2023 and secured a formal partnership with the NFL.

CFL, XFL Will Not Move Toward Partnership

A few months ago, the Canadian Football League and the again-retooling XFL entered talks about a potential partnership. Discussions reached the point of a championship game and a merger eventually occurring between the two leagues.

However, the sides may now be going their separate ways. An official CFL release Wednesday morning indicated the league will not look to partner with the XFL at this time. The CFL did not slam the door on a partnership transpiring one day, but that prospect appears dead for the time being.

[RELATED: XFL To Return In 2022]

The COVID-19 pandemic moved the CFL to cancel its 2020 season, but the league will return soon. The CFL is slated to open its 2021 season August 5. The season is scheduled to run through Dec. 12’s Grey Cup, which would be the 108th edition of the league’s championship game. The CFL also held discussions with The Spring League, an American minor league outfit. Those talks did not end up producing an agreement, either, and they came just ahead of the CFL canceling its 2020 season.

Despite the pandemic halting XFL 2.0’s season, and extensive legal issues cropping up in the wake of the hiatus, the winter-spring league — with Dwayne Johnson now its driving force — is tentatively expected to give it another try in 2022. It is unclear how the CFL talks pertained to the XFL’s latest revival effort, however.

WR Cameron Meredith Lands CFL Deal

Cameron Meredith has not played since November 2018, but the former Bears and Saints wide receiver will have a comeback opportunity after this lengthy hiatus. The CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers added Meredith to their roster Thursday.

The time off may have been necessary for the 28-year-old wideout, who suffered multiple career-altering knee injuries while in the NFL. Coming off a breakout 2016 season, Meredith suffered left ACL and MCL tears during a 2017 preseason game. He then encountered more damage to that knee in 2018, when his season ended early because of arthroscopic surgery.

A UDFA out of Illinois State, Meredith led the 2016 Bears in receiving with 888 yards — during a season in which Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley all started at least five games with Chicago. After Meredith’s injury, the Bears gave him an original-round RFA tender in 2018. This invited interest from multiple teams. The Saints signed him to a two-year, $9.6MM offer sheet, with $5.4MM guaranteed, but that pact only led to a nine-catch, 114-yard abbreviated season. The Patriots signed Meredith in 2019 but cut him ahead of the regular season.

I’ve taken the last couple of years to sit back, enjoy time with my family and do the necessary therapy and treatment. I’ve been doing like the lifting, the massages, everything,” Meredith said, via Ed Tait of BlueBombers.com. “It’s been a nonstop 2½-year grind. I’d like to say it wasn’t for nothing because now I’ve got this opportunity to do something with it.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic nixed the 2020 CFL season, the league will return this year. The 2021 CFL season begins August 5, when the Blue Bombers face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Former Jets wideout ArDarius Stewart and ex-Giants backup receiver Quadree Henderson are also on Winnipeg’s preseason roster.

CFL, XFL Considering Championship Game, Merger?

The XFL’s reboot did not make it through the full season, with the pandemic leading the league to nix the second half of it, and litigation followed. But under Dwayne Johnson, the league is yet again attempting to return.

As of now, the XFL plans to return in 2022. But the league is holding discussions with a far more established football brand. The Canadian Football League is in talks with the XFL. While an official CFL release describes these discussions as efforts to collaborate and “grow the game,” a true partnership may be the objective.

One of the options being discussed: a championship game between the two leagues, according to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, who adds that the game would occur after the two leagues crown champions. This would be similar to the AFL and NFL in the late 1960s, when four championship games — later referred to as Super Bowls — were held ahead of a merger. The CFL and XFL may hope to traverse a similar course. A long-term objective in play, per McCarthy: a CFL-XFL merger.

Considering how the XFL’s two launch efforts have gone, it would qualify as stunning to see the CFL link up with the fledgling league. The CFL has been in existence since 1958, but the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted its operation last year. The CFL did not play in 2020, losing out on considerable revenue. Last year, the CFL explored a partnership with The Spring League, an American outfit, so some momentum may exist for the Canadian operation to forge an agreement.

While the XFL started its two seasons in February, the CFL plays in the summer and into the fall. One party would need to shift its calendar in order for this unusual partnership to take place. The Canadian league currently houses nine teams; XFL 2.0 featured eight. The leagues also would need to work out rule harmony, with the CFL game featuring some obvious differences from the one the XFL played in 2020.

A Johnson-led partnership acquired the XFL from bankruptcy, and the league is tentatively expected to resume play in 2022. However, this may be contingent on how the CFL meetings go. Plans for a 2022 XFL return are on hold, pending talks with the CFL, XFL president Jeffrey Pollack said last month (Twitter link). It appears the two leagues are exploring what could be a necessary arrangement, one that would make for a fascinating development.

CFL Exploring Partnership With U.S. Spring League

The Canadian Football League hovers on the verge of a canceled season, but an unusual proposition has surfaced that would potentially open the door to the CFL playing games in 2020.

Brian Woods, CEO of an American-based developmental league known as The Spring League, reached out to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie about a partnership to form a 14-team alliance that would hold games during fall weekdays, according to Dan Ralph of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Ambrosie asked Woods for a proposal to take to the CFL’s board of governors, Ralph adds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to cancel the CFL season. Ambrosie said recently September is a best-case scenario for the league starting what would be an abbreviated season. He asked the Canadian government for financial assistance, per Ralph.

It does not appear CFL teams would play full 18-game schedules if a partnership with The Spring League happens, but the league combining with an American developmental league would be one of the more interesting developments in recent football memory. The Spring League is seeking to align with the CFL this year to play games Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays this September, Ralph reports.

In operation since 2017, The Spring League consists of four teams — which would be upped to five to match up with the CFL’s nine — that plays a handful of games per year in March and April. The CFL has previously signed players who have played in The Spring League, which has also seen the likes of Johnny Manziel, Ahmad BradshawZach Mettenberger and Greg Hardy suit up since its inception. The league has already played games this year — in Las Vegas — and defeated the Japanese national team in an exhibition game held in March in Frisco, Texas.

Additionally, a CFL-Spring League union would be open to college players — should the coronavirus impact the 2020 college season. The games would take place in the United States. Memphis, Birmingham, San Antonio, Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville are on the list for potential host cities, Ralph notes. Interestingly, this plan would use both American and Canadian football rules, depending on the teams involved in certain games.

Jags’ Scott Milanovich To Return To CFL

Scott Milanovich will return to the Canadian Football League. The former CFL head coach has served as the Jaguars’ quarterbacks coach for three seasons, but he will become the Edmonton Eskimos’ HC after this season, according to the CFL franchise.

The first-time NFL coach, however, will stay on in his current role until season’s end. The Jaguars hired Milanovich after a five-season stint as the Toronto Argonauts’ HC.

The prospect of a Black Monday ouster certainly is in play for Doug Marrone, so his staff is not assured of a return to north Florida. Milanovich, 46, has also worked with CFL franchises Montreal and Calgary. The Jags promoted Milanovich to their offensive coordinator post late last season, after firing Nathaniel Hackett, but he returned to the QBs job after the team hired John DeFilippo this offseason.

A Grey Cup champion with Toronto in 2012, Milanovich oversaw the work of Blake Bortles, Nick Foles and, perhaps most notably, the development of sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew the past three seasons. But with the Jags likely set to fire Marrone, their young quarterback will likely be tasked with learning a new system next season.

AAF Won’t Allow Players To Sign With CFL

The CFL league office notified all of its teams that the AAF will not allow its players to sign CFL deals, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This is undoubtedly frustrating news for AAF refugees, many of whom are still without work. 

[RELATED: More AAF Players Land NFL Deals]

Over the last week, many players from the defunct AAF found deals with NFL teams. However, there are still many who are looking to stay on the NFL’s radar. For players on the fringe, the CFL is one of the best places to showcase skills, even though the north-of-the-border league mandates that players sign for at least two seasons.

The AAF, of course, is in breach of the playing contracts, so it’s surprising to hear that they still have the ability to stop players from pursuing contracts elsewhere. AAF players have not received a dime since the league halted operations earlier this month and some are said to be gearing up for a class action lawsuit against the short-lived developmental league.

Tom Dundon, the owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and the lead investor in the AAF, made the call to shutdown the upstart league largely because they were unable to negotiate an agreement with the NFLPA. Dundon wanted practice squad and other bottom of the roster players to be allowed to play in the AAF, but a deal couldn’t be struck in time. Many have speculated that Dundon bought into the league strictly for its gambling app technology.

CFL Reinstates “NFL Window”

Previously, Canadian Football League players had to sign a minimum two-year contract to join a team, and the league didn’t provide an out for those looking to jump to the NFL. Well, it sounds like the CFL has softened its stance, as TSN’s David William Naylor reports that the league has voted to reinstate their “NFL window.” The league had voted against this change earlier this year.

As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explains, this would allow “certain players to work out for NFL teams and sign contracts that would become effective at the end of a given CFL season.” That way, instead of being obligated to the CFL for two seasons, players would have the ability to sign with an NFL team after only one season in Canada.

However, as Florio points out, the rule would only apply to players who ink contracts after August 20th of this year. That means players like quarterback Johnny Manziel, who signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats back in May, won’t be able to join the NFL until their contracts expire. The rule change also wouldn’t apply to running back Dexter McCluster, who recently signed with the Toronto Argonauts. On the flip side, if a player signs after August 20th, they’d have the ability to return to the NFL next year.

Florio wonders if the CFL may have been pressured by the developing spring football leagues, which will presumably provide players with the ability to return to the NFL. Ultimately, Florio believes this change could eventually lead to the CFL allowing one-year contracts or a clear NFL-out clause. As Naylor observes, the rule also came about due to Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder‘s threats to sit out the entire CFL season due to his inability to join an NFL team.