Curtis Johnson

United Football League To Feature Eight Teams, 10-Game Season

More details have surfaced regarding the XFL and USFL’s merger, which will produce a second operation called the United Football League. The long-rumored merger will produce a league that launches March 30, 2024, with the rebranded league housing eight teams and preparing to play a 10-game season.

Eight teams comprised each of the two winter-spring leagues in 2023, but the new UFL will see half the overall franchises cease operations. Spring leagues in the United States have waged uphill battles for generations, with financial issues taking down two XFL incarnations, 2019’s Alliance of American Football and the original United Football League (2009-12) this century. Thus, it is unsurprising to see the new league refuse to expand in terms of total teams.

The March 30 date falls in between the XFL and USFL’s 2023 starting points; the XFL officially returned in February, while the rebooted USFL’s second season began in April of last year. The XFL’s third try lost money, and the USFL showed interest in a merger shortly after its latest season. Five XFL teams and three USFL clubs will transfer over. Here are those teams:

  • Arlington Renegades
  • Birmingham Stallions
  • D.C. Defenders
  • Houston Roughnecks
  • Memphis Showboats
  • Michigan Panthers
  • San Antonio Brahmas
  • St. Louis Battlehawks

Houston previously housed XFL and USFL teams; the new one will keep its XFL moniker but use the USFL’s head coach (Curtis Johnson),’s Kevin Seifert notes. Four XFL head coaches and four USFL HCs will stay on. Former 49ers HC Mike Nolan (Panthers), ex-NFL OC John DeFilippo (Showboats), longtime Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops (Renegades), Super Bowl-winning DC Wade Phillips (Brahmas), former Jets tight end Anthony Becht (Battlehawks), former NFL wideout Reggie Barlow (Defenders) and longtime college HC Skip Holtz (Stallions) will begin the season as the UFL’s head coaches.

Phillips coached the XFL’s Houston team last season but will shift to San Antonio for this latest reboot. The Giants lost their assistant special teams coach, Anthony Blevins, in July for an opportunity with the XFL’s Vegas Vipers; they were one of the three XFL franchises that will not continue play in the UFL. Former Bills president Russ Brandon, who served as XFL 3.0’s commissioner, will work as the UFL’s president and CEO. Longtime NFL fullback-turned-FOX analyst Daryl Johnston, the USFL’s president, will lead football operations for the new league.

While the new UFL will keep spring football afloat in the U.S., moving down from 16 total teams to eight will decrease opportunities for players. Several XFL 3.0 and USFL 2.0 alums wound up in NFL training camps. The USFL produced two impact Cowboys special-teamers, with KaVontae Turpin earning All-Pro honors for his return work in 2022 and Brandon Aubrey (zero missed 2023 field goals in Dallas) on the cusp of matching that as a kicker.

Following the September merger report, Seifert adds federal regulators approved the merger Nov. 30. Training camp will begin Feb. 24 in Arlington, the site of last year’s XFL camp. The UFL will have each team practice in Arlington, per The Athletic’s Chris Vannini, before flying out to game sites each week (subscription required). Games will be televised on ABC, FOX, ESPN and FS1.

Dolphins To Interview Curtis Johnson For OC Job, Add Wes Welker To Staff

After hiring Jon Embree as assistant head coach/tight ends coach earlier today, the Dolphins are now eyeing offensive coordinator candidates. According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, the team is interviewing Curtis Johnson for their OC job.

[RELATED: Dolphins To Hire Jon Embree As Assistant Head Coach]

Johnson has had two long stints with the Saints, most recently as a senior offensive assistant (and wide receivers coach in 2021). The 60-year-old also had a stint as the Bears WRs coach, and he was head coach at Tulane between 2012 and 2015. Johnson coached at Miami (FL) between 1996 and 2005, so this would be a bit of a homecoming for the veteran coach.

Meanwhile, Armando Salguero reports (via Twitter) that the Dolphins have hired Wes Welker as their wide receivers coach. Welker appeared in 46 games for the Dolphins before turning into a Pro Bowler with the Patriots. Since his playing career ended, Welker has switched to coaching. He served on the Texans coaching staff in 2017 and 2018, and he’s been the 49ers wide receivers coach since 2019.

One coach who won’t be sticking around Miami is Gerald Alexander. According to Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network (on Twitter), the Dolphins have fired the defensive backs coach. Wolfe described this as a “shocking move” considering how Alexander is viewed in NFL circles. The former second-round pick switched to coaching following his playing career, and he had been with the Dolphins since 2020.

Saints To Be Without 8 Assistants Due To COVID-19 Protocols

SATURDAY: The Saints will be down two more coaches due to virus protocols. Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and pass rush specialist Brian Young will not coach in Week 2 as well. However, the team announced Nugent will be able to be on the sidelines Sunday. The Saints are still down eight coaches, with two defensive assistants now joining offensive and special teams staffers set to skip the Charlotte trip.

FRIDAY: Following reports earlier this week of several Saints assistants testing positive for COVID-19, the team announced which coaches will miss their Week 2 game due to the NFL’s coronavirus protocols.

Run-game coordinator and tight ends coach Dan Roushar, offensive line coach Brendan Nugent, wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, running backs coach Joel Thomas, assistant special teams coach Phil Galiano, offensive assistant Declan Doyle and offensive analyst Jim Chaney will not be with the team for its Week 2 game against Carolina.

This group of coaches is fully vaccinated, according to Sean Payton. New Orleans’ recent run of COVID-19 issues also included Michael Thomas, who tested positive earlier this week. Thomas was already on New Orleans’ reserve/PUP list and is out until Week 7. As a result of these positive tests, Saints players will be required to be tested daily — regardless of vaccination status — and wear masks at the team’s facility until the NFL permits the team to exit the heightened protocols,’s Kevin Patra notes.

The Saints’ virus issues do not quite match the Browns’ from late last season, when several staffers missed Week 17 and Kevin Stefanski missed the team’s wild-card game. And the Saints staffers’ vaccinations make this development a lesser concern than last season’s virus cases on coaching staffs. But it is certainly notable as the NFL begins its second season since the pandemic began.

Saints Rumors: Meredith, Coleman, Snead

Now that Cameron Meredith is in the fold with the Saints, he still must complete a lengthy rehab process. The wide receiver saw his 2017 season erased because of ACL and MCL tears in his left knee, and he’s not planning to partake in New Orleans’ offseason program. Meredith’s goal is to return by training camp.

I see myself being 100 percent for at least the season,” Meredith said during a radio interview on ESPN Chicago (via The Advocate’s Nick Underhill). “Training camp is my goal, and I don’t see any reason why I can’t accomplish that. I haven’t had any setbacks. I don’t think anyone had that as a major concern.”

Meredith received multiple offers in restricted free agency, so multiple medical staffs gave teams the go-ahead here. The now-25-year-old wideout fared well for the 2016 Bears, posting 888 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He’ll walk into what’s been the league’s most consistently productive aerial attack over the past 12 seasons and is in line to serve as an auxiliary option for Drew Brees.

Here’s the latest out of New Orleans.

  • Meredith opted for the Saints in part because they have former Bears wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson on staff. Now in his second stint as Saints wideouts instructor, Johnson served as the Bears’ WRs coach in 2016 before moving on to New Orleans last year. “C.J. was a big part of my success in Chicago,” Meredith said Friday, via Amos Morale III of “And getting to rejoin him in New Orleans… (we’ll) get back right were we left off.”
  • The Meredith deal likely impacts other recent Brees weapons. A supporting-cast cog with the Saints the past three seasons, Brandon Coleman is now unlikely to return to the Saints and will have to find a gig elsewhere, Larry Holder of notes. New Orleans did not tender Coleman, now a UFA, but did offer an original-round tender to Willie Snead. A more consistent producer than Meredith after two 890-plus-yard seasons with the Saints, Snead saw his production dip dramatically last season (eight catches, 92 yards). Negotiating an extension last offseason, Snead has instead seen his stock drop. He worked out for the Ravens, who preferred Meredith, but has not been connected to another team yet in free agency. He has until April 20 to sign another team’s offer sheet. Holder wonders if the Saints retract their original-round tender ($1.9MM) now that Meredith’s under contract.
  • The Saints signed offensive lineman Gabe Ikard to a reserve/futures contract in January, but Ikard has opted to retire, per Josh Katzenstein of Ikard finished last season on the Saints’ practice squad. He last played in two games for the Bills in 2016. The 27-year-old Oklahoma alum is now hosting a drive-time radio show in Oklahoma City.
  • Andrus Peat is now under Saints control through the 2019 season. The team exercised the three-year starter’s fifth-year option.

NFC Notes: Palmer, 49ers, Saints, Bears

The Cardinals don’t know if quarterback Carson Palmer will return in 2017 for what would be his age-37 season, but one new rumbling on the three-time Pro Bowler could be cause for pessimism. Palmer has put his Arizona home up for sale, pulled his kids out of school and relocated to another state, Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 hears (Twitter link via one of Jurecki’s colleagues, Jody Oehler). But Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has radically different information, tweeting that Palmer has not put his house up for sale. For now, Palmer is under contract through 2018 and set to rake in a $15MM base salary next season.

More from the NFC:

  • The 49ers are suing one of their former stars, Raiders pass rusher Aldon Smith, for $341,630.18 in signing bonus money, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. That figure represents the amount of money Smith hasn’t repaid the team since the NFL hit him with a nine-game suspension in 2014, when he was docked $1,186,027 for serving the ban. Despite an arbitrator’s order to repay the 49ers within 30 days, Smith hasn’t done so, thus leading to the lawsuit. The 27-year-old is currently serving another suspension and didn’t play at all this season as a result.
  • The Saints have added Curtis Johnson (wide receivers) and Brad Banta (special teams) to their coaching staff, relays Mike Triplett of The hiring of Johnson is no surprise, as there was informed speculation Monday that he’d return to New Orleans after rejecting a contract offer to stay in Chicago. Johnson coached the Saints’ receivers from 2006-11, and newly hired Jets offensive coordinator John Morton‘s exit opened to the door for Johnson to rejoin the club. Banta, who was with the Redskins, will take over a Saints special teams unit that ranked 27th in the league in DVOA this season.
  • Bears director of player development Jerry Butler has retired, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The former wide receiver took the job in 2015, and he focused on helping the Bears’ young players adjust to the NFL during his two-year stint. Butler was a popular figure among the Bears’ youngsters – including standout rookie Leonard Floyd – per Biggs.
  • In what will be yet another Bears departure, assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower is set to leave Chicago to become the 49ers’ ST coach under soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan, tweets Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. Shanahan and Hightower were college teammates at the University of Texas, and they have since worked together on coaching staffs in Houston, Washington and Cleveland. Hightower’s tenure in San Francisco will be his second – he was its assistant ST coach in 2015.

Extra Points: Raiders, 49ers, Falcons, Bears

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson decided Monday to rescind his offer to help the relocation-minded Raiders pay for a stadium in Las Vegas, but that’s not going to faze the franchise. The Raiders issued a statement in response to Adelson’s choice to withdraw support, saying: “The Raiders deeply appreciate the efforts of the Adelson family to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. We know this project could not have advanced to this point without them. The Raiders remain steadfast in honoring Mark Davis’ commitment to Governor Sandoval and the State of Nevada to pursue relocation to Las Vegas” (via Paul Gutierrez of

Without Adelson, who had planned to give the Raiders $650MM toward a proposed $1.9 billion facility, the team plans to invest $1.15 billion and accept operating responsibilities, Sandoval’s office told the Associated Press (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle). The Raiders could receive help from Goldman Sachs to make that happen.

Now the latest from the NFC:

  • Rookie general manager John Lynch declared Monday he’ll “aggressively pursue” people he has relationships with to join him in the 49ers’ front office (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of That won’t include rumored candidate and longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan, whom Lynch played for in Denver from 2004-07 and who’s the father of soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Lynch expects to listen to the elder Shanahan’s advice, but he’s not going to take an official role with the 49ers, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.
  • Kristin Campbell, the agent for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, publicly pushed for a lucrative contract extension for her client Monday afternoon. Campbell has since spoken again on Freeman’s future, telling D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff “are on the same page” and will engage in extension talks during the offseason. Campbell will seek top three running back money for the 24-year-old Freeman, a back-to-back Pro Bowler. “Who was the last running back to go to back to back Pro Bowls?” Campbell said. Adrian Peterson. Adrian is considered one of the most prolific backs of the past 10 years, wouldn’t you say?” Peterson’s current contract pays him an average of $14MM per year, which easily tops his position.
  • Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson turned down a new contract to return the Bears for a second season and is mulling taking a position with a different team, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Johnson could return to New Orleans, where he coached from 2006-11, Biggs suggests. The Saints are in the market for a WRs coach, having lost John Morton to the Jets over the weekend.
  • The Bills will hire Phil McGeoghan to coach their receivers, relays ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). McGeoghan, who was the Dolphins’ assistant receivers coach from 2012-15, spent last season coaching East Carolina’s wideouts.
  • Contrary to a report from last week, the Eagles and personnel executive Rick Mueller have not yet parted ways. Mueller is working from home and will join the Eagles at next month’s scouting combine, though his contract is up in May, per Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter link).

NFC North Notes: Lions, Bears, Guion

The Lions and Bears each formally announced additions to their coaching staff today, with Detroit naming a new quarterbacks coach and Chicago confirming a new wide receivers coach.

As previously reported, the Lions’ new QBs coach is Brian Callahan, who spent the last six seasons with the Broncos, and has previously worked with Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. In 2015, Callahan was an offensive assistant in Denver, playing a part in coaching the club’s QBs.

As for the Bears, their new wide receivers coach is Curtis Johnson, who had been Tulane’s head coach for the past four seasons after serving as the WRs coach for the Saints from 2006 to 2011. Joining Johnson in Chicago is Ben McDaniels, whose hiring was also reported last Friday. Josh McDaniels‘ brother officially joins the Bears as an offensive assistant.

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link), Letroy Guion‘s new contract with the Packers features a modest $500K signing bonus. Silverstein adds that the deal includes “$1.5MM more later,” though it’s not clear if that refers to a signing bonus or his 2016 salary. Friday reports indicated the three-year pact is worth a total of $11.25MM.
  • Having locked up two key defensive players – Mike Daniels and Guion – who would have been eligible for free agency this winter, the Packers‘ next priority may be a special-teamer, according to Rob Demovsky of, who examines kicker Mason Crosby‘s impending free agency.
  • Jeff Dickerson of explores the possibility of cornerback Tracy Porter re-signing with the Bears for the 2016 season after a strong 2015 campaign.