Canadian Football League

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Johnny Manziel Offered CFL Contract

Former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel has been offered a contract by the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, as the club announced today.Johnny Manziel (vertical)

The CFL announced in late December that a Manziel contract would be approved for the 2018 season, opening a 10-day window during which the Tiger-Cats — the club which has controlled Manziel’s contractual rights for some time — could ink the former Browns signal-caller. Now that Hamilton has indeed offered a deal to Manziel, it’s up to the ex-first-round pick to decide if he wants to head north of the border.

There’s every indication that Manziel does indeed want to join the CFL, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported last September that Manziel “very much wants” to sign with the Tiger-Cats or another CFL club. Manziel, whose original workout with Hamtilton reportedly didn’t go well, has evidently met the conditions set by the CFL in order to be approved for a contract. Those parameters included an in-person interview, a legal review, and an independent assessment of past off-field accusations against Manziel.

Manziel is still only 25 years old, but he hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2015 campaign. In eight career starts for the Browns, the former Heisman trophy winner completed 57% of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/17/16

Here are today’s minor transactions from around the NFL:

  • The Steelers have brought back tight end David Johnson, who was with Pittsburgh from 2009-13 after it took him in the seventh round of the ’09 draft (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Johnson, who has 24 career receptions, spent the previous two seasons in San Diego. To make room for Johnson, the Steelers cut fellow tight end David Reeves, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Reeves, an undrafted free agent from Duke, signed with the Steelers last month.
  • Just days after signing with the Titans as an undrafted free agent, cornerback/kick returner Morgan Burns has retired, writes The Associated Press. Burns, a former Kansas State speedster, was the Big 12 special teams player of the year in 2015.
  • The Panthers have claimed tight end Marcus Lucas off waivers from the Bears, David Newton of ESPN reports. Lucas is familiar with Carolina, having spent the 2014 season on its practice squad. The former undrafted free agent from Missouri has yet to appear in an NFL game.
  • The Jaguars signed offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach and cut kicker Jaden Oberkrom, according to ESPN’s Mike DiRocco. Linkenbach has 86 appearances and 36 starts to his name. Ten of those appearances came when Linkenbach was a member of both the Dolphins and Chargers last year. Oberkrom had a brief stint in Jacksonville, which signed the ex-TCU standout as an undrafted free agent earlier this month.

Earlier updates:

  • The Eagles announced that they have signed tight end M.J. McFarland and linebacker Ty Powell while waiving quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and offensive lineman Brett Boyko, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. The addition of Powell means that the Eagles now have four players from the Buffalo’s 2014 defense on their roster. Jim Schwartz, of course, served as the defensive coordinator of that team.
  • The Buccaneers announced that they have signed A.J. Francis, as Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com writes. The defensive tackle now joins his fourth team after beginning his career in Miami and later seeing time in Seattle and New England. To make room, second-year defensive tackle Davon Coleman has been waived.
  • Former Texans first-round pick Amobi Okoye has signed with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle writes. The defensive tackle was stricken with a rare illness, which seemingly ended his career in 2012. He hooked on with the Cowboys last season, but he was released before he could take the field.
  • Washington has signed tryout cornerback Mariel Cooper, Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com tweets.
  • The Ravens announced that cornerback Sheldon Price, an ERFA, has agreed to his one-year contract with the team. Price, who went undrafted out of UCLA in 2013, previously spent time on the Colts’ taxi squad.

NFC Notes: Brees, Goff, Pettigrew, Giants

For most of the offseason, NFL observers have assumed that the Saints and Drew Brees will negotiate an extension that locks up the quarterback beyond the 2016 season and frees up some cap room for the team. However, agent Tom Condon said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show that the Saints seem to be satisfied with Brees at his current cap number, per Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate.

According to Over the Cap’s data, New Orleans currently has less than $2MM in cap room, and that appears to be without factoring in the team’s draft picks. There are ways that the Saints could lock up all their picks and get through the 2016 season without reworking Brees’ deal, but it would almost certainly require adjusting another contract or two.

Brees, who is entering the final year of his deal, currently has a $30MM cap charge, with only one other player on the Saints’ books for a number larger than $6.35MM in 2016 — Jairus Byrd has a $10.9MM cap hit, which could be reduced via a restructure, if necessary.

As we wait to see whether New Orleans is serious about standing pat on Brees, here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Defensive lineman David Onyemata has been drafted for the second time in two weeks, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com. After being selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Saints, Onyemata came off the board in the fourth round of the CFL draft as well, snatched by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Of course, Onyemata went 120th overall in the NFL draft, as opposed to 35th in the CFL draft, and he would have gone higher in the CFL draft had the Saints not selected him last month — he was viewed as the No. 1 Canadian prospect for 2016, but the Roughriders won’t get him as he long as he remains with New Orleans.
  • The Rams don’t want to rush No. 1 pick Jared Goff into anything, but as Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com writes, there’s a good chance the former Cal quarterback will be under center for the team sooner rather than later — perhaps even by Week 1.
  • Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who suffered a torn ACL near the end of the 2015 season, said on Tuesday night that he expects to be ready to go for the start of training camp in July, tweets Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.
  • When the Giants waived wide receiver Ben Edwards earlier this week, the team did so with an injury designation. As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com explains, the injury Edwards suffered was a torn ACL. Since the wideout went unclaimed he’ll revert to IR — Big Blue can either keep him there for the 2016 season, or negotiate an injury settlement if he has a chance to return before the end of the year.