Minor NFL Transactions: 8/7/22

We will keep track of today’s minor moves right here:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Commanders

Saffold landed on the NFI list after injuring his ribs in a car accident. Getting their starting left guard back sooner rather than later is an important development for the Bills.

Colburn will take the place of Cottrell in the Jags’ RB room. The Wake Forest product played in four games for the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars this year, garnering 102 rushes for 457 yards (just under 4.5 YPC) and eight scores.

Cottrell has seen action in each of the past two years for Jacksonville, returning seven kicks in 2020 and handling one carry in 2021.

Wolf and Parker get preseason roster positions after successful workouts yesterday. The Commanders are looking for depth at both positions as they work towards a 53-man roster.

USFL WR Devin Gray Signs With Chiefs

Wide receiver Devin Gray will dip his toes into the NFL waters for the third time after signing a one-year deal with Kansas City, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The former Cincinnati Bearcat most recently played in the United States Football League and is the latest player from that league to sign an NFL contract.

Gray signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He spent three years on the team’s practice squad before finally being elevated to the active roster in the last regular season game of the 2020 season, still failing to find his way onto the field in that game. After participating in the short-lived The Spring League, Gray joined the Ravens for the summer of 2021, getting released from the practice squad early into the regular season. After failing to find another NFL job, Gray got selected in the USFL Draft and played eight games for the Philadelphia Stars, catching 25 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

Gray has some work ahead of him to make the Chiefs’ final 53-man roster. While Kansas City’s receiving corps isn’t exactly top-heavy, it has a decent amount of potential depth. The starting three are expected to be free agent addition JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and another free agent signing in Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Behind them veteran Josh Gordon provides his skill set as long as he can stay on the field, second-round pick Skyy Moore will make the jump from Western Michigan to the NFL, and Justin Watson comes over after four unproductive years in Tampa Bay. Still behind them is former first-round pick Corey Coleman and a few other receivers who stood out in college like Daurice Fountain, Cornell Powell, and Gary Jennings.

That’s a lot of traffic for Gray to maneuver, and it will certainly be an uphill battle for the 27-year-old as he attempts to make an active NFL roster for only the second time in his career.

Bears, Browns Sign Two Former USFL Stars

Two star defenders from the 2022 United States Football League’s inaugural season signed NFL contracts today. DeMarquis Gates, considered one of the top linebackers in the USFL this spring, has signed with the Bears, according to Matt Lombardo of Heavy Sports. Edge rusher Chris Odom, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year for the USFL, signed today with the Browns, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.

Gates has dipped his toe in the NFL before, spending offseason or practice squad time with Cleveland, Washington, and Minnesota. In between all of those stints and now, Gates played in the Alliance of American Football in 2019, the XFL in 2020, and the Canadian Football League in 2021, before dominating in the USFL this past spring. His persistence in sticking with professional football no matter the league could pay off with his newest NFL opportunity.

The Bears cupboard is fairly thin at linebacker behind Roquan Smith after losing Alec Ogletree to free agency and trading away Khalil Mack. Chicago responded to the losses by bringing former Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow and former Colts linebacker Matthew Adams. Neither have extensive full-time starting experience and Morrow, who has the greater amount of starting experience, didn’t play at all in 2021 due to a foot injury. If Gates can impress in the preseason, not only could he snag a roster spot, he could earn a key role on the Bears’ defense.

After earning the Defensive Player of the Year award for the USFL this spring, Odom has been auditioning all over the NFL, taking workouts with the Bengals, Cardinals, Chiefs, Saints, and Texans, before eventually acing the workout with the Browns. Odom has a bit more NFL experience, racking up 16 tackles in 11 games played. Odom spent offseason and practice squad time with the Falcons in 2017 and 2019, getting waived after both stints and finding his way to NFL action immediately after both times. In 2017, Odom signed with the Packers and got six tackles over seven games. In 2019, Odom signed with Washington and got 10 tackles and 2.0 sacks in just four games. In between those opportunities, Odom spent time in the AAF in 2018 and the CFL in 2021 before dominating USFL offenses. Odom, like Gates, is now being given an opportunity to be a golden example of what happens when you don’t give up on your NFL dreams.

Cleveland famously has two of the league’s better pass rushers in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. The two combined for over half of the Browns’ sacks last year with 25.0. The depth behind Garrett and Clowney is not ideal, though, with rookie third-round pick Alex Wright and former Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly as the primary backups on the depth chart. Odom has a real opportunity to find his way into the pass rushing rotation after leading the USFL with 12.5 sacks this past spring.

The USFL is striving to do what many other fledging leagues have attempted: cement their status as a minor league to the NFL. If top performers like Gates and Odom can find their way onto NFL rosters and into key roles, it could say a lot about the staying power of the USFL as a potential feeder-league.

USFL DPOY Chris Odom Auditions For Bengals, Cardinals, Saints

JULY 26: Odom’s workout itinerary surfaced Tuesday. The USFL Defensive Player of the Year auditioned for the Bengals, Cardinals and Saints, Aaron Wilson of tweets. Odom first trekked to Arizona and Cincinnati but headed to New Orleans today. It certainly looks like he will have options to tack an NFL season onto his spring-summer USFL work. He would be following a few others once he latches on with a team.

JULY 9: Chris Odom put himself back on the NFL map with a strong performance in the USFL. The edge rusher’s agent announced that Odom has three upcoming workouts with NFL teams (h/t to Charean Williams of The agent didn’t reveal the three squads, but he said the “calls are starting to come in fast” for his client.

The son of longtime Colts linebacker Cliff Odom, Chris Odom went undrafted out of Arkansas State in 2017. He bounced around the NFL a bit, spending time with the Falcons (two stints), Packers, and Washington. He’s ultimately saw time in 11 NFL games, collecting 16 tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble. He also spent time in the AAF and the CFL before landing his most recent gig is the United States Football League.

Back in February, Odom was selected in the second round of the USFL draft. He proceeded to have a standout season with the Houston Gamblers, earning league Defensive Player of the Years honors after compiling 41 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and four blocked field goals. That performance has apparently put him back on the NFL radar, but during a conversation with Yahoo’s Chris Estrada, Odom was still focused on his USFL squad. While he acknowledged that “whatever opportunity presents itself [after the USFL season], then so be it,” he reiterated how important it was to him that the USFL gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills.

“I have teammates that haven’t played football in a year, two years, three years, some even four years – whether it wasn’t the right opportunity, injury, COVID,” Odom said. “We all just were happy to be able to play football again. So we all just wanted to show everybody what we were capable of.”

We recently saw one USFL player take his talents back to the NFL when linebacker Christian Sam signed with the Cowboys.

NFL Workout Updates: 7/23/22

This week saw two free agents in very different situations get workouts:

  • Former Panthers cornerback Troy Pride worked out for the Ravens on Thursday, according to Adam Caplan of Fox Sports. A fourth-round pick in 2020, Pride started eight games as a rookie before being placed on injured reserve to end the season. A torn ACL in the preseason last year forced him to miss the entire 2021 season. The Panthers waived Pride in May after he failed his physical. He’s looking to join a Ravens defense that currently rosters Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller, Jalyn Armour-Davis, and others. Baltimore is likely more than willing to add depth at the position after seeing Humphrey and Peters both suffer season-ending injuries last year. The team also cut 2019 fourth-round pick Iman Marshall today, so Pride could be a potential depth addition behind the other two offseason additions of the veteran Fuller and the rookie Armour-Davis.
  • Another USFL story is in the works as former New Orleans Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter was hosted by the Jaguars on a free agent visit this week, as reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Sloter has spent time on many NFL practice squads and rosters over the years. Since going undrafted in 2017, Sloter has signed to join the Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, and Vikings again before his stint in the USFL. Sloter wasn’t one of the names expected to jump leagues. In his 9 weeks of play, Sloter completed 57.7% of his passes for 1,798 yards while throwing only 9 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Perhaps the playing experience will help solidify Sloter into a backup role with a squad or maybe he’ll be slotted as a camp arm. Regardless, with this visit, he’s aiming to compete with C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton, and EJ Perry for the right to backup Trevor Lawrence in Duval.

Cardinals Make Three Roster Moves

The Cardinals made plenty of headlines yesterday by making quarterback Kyler Murray the league’s second-highest paid player. They have made some other, less substantial moves today. 

The team announced that tight end Maxx Williams has been placed on the active/PUP list. The 28-year-old suffered a season-ending knee injury in October, leaving a significant hole in Arizona’s offense. To fill the void, the Cardinals traded for Zach Ertz days later. Still, Williams did enough in his third year in the desert to earn a one-year contract this offseason.

The former second-rounder is no stranger to injuries. Williams has played a full season only once in his seven-year career, back in 2019. Since then, he has made just 14 appearances in total, prompting the Cardinals to retain Ertz and add Trey McBride in the draft. Williams will therefore have plenty of competition for playing time upon his return.

Meanwhile, the team also confirmed the signing of wideout Victor Bolden Jr. The five-foot-nine, 175-pounder played a pivotal role in helping the Birmingham Stallions win the USFL title. Overall, he ranked fourth in the spring league with 415 receiving yards, numbers which translated to the championship game (of which he was named MVP). In addition, he showcased his ability as a returner, with 794 yards on special teams. That was Bolden’s calling card during his previous stint in the NFL, which began by signing as a UDFA with the 49ers in 2017 and ended last summer when he was waived by the Lions.

Lastly, to make room for Bolden, the Cardinals released undrafted receiver Jared SmartIf Bolden can make Arizona’s roster as a returner in particular, he could round out the team’s WR corps, which already features the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, Antoine Wesley and Andy Isabella at the top of the depth chart.

Steelers Sign USFL DL Doug Costin

More USFL-to-NFL connections are happening ahead of training camps opening. The Steelers became the latest team to tap into the spring-summer league Tuesday, signing defensive lineman Doug Costin.

The Steelers announced a one-year deal for Costin, who worked out for the team Monday. Costin secured a 90-man roster spot after auditioning along with four other USFL players. Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun, defensive tackle Domenique Davis, defensive tackle Dondrea Tillman and defensive tackle Willie Yarbary rounded out the workout, Field Yates of tweets.

While Costin played in the USFL this year, he has NFL starting experience. Costin started nine games for the Jaguars in 2020. The Miami University (Ohio) product recorded 32 tackles (three for loss) as a rookie but only played in one game with the Jags in 2021. He spent time on the Bengals’ practice squad leading up to Super Bowl LVI last season.

Costin joins select other USFLers in receiving an NFL opportunity. The Cowboys signed linebacker Christian Sam, and the Commanders added defensive backs DeJuan Neal and Channing Stribling. The Saints are also set to work out USFL running back Darius Victor.

Saints To Work Out USFL RB Darius Victor

The Saints have met with some well-known running backs this offseason, but neither Sony Michel nor David Johnson ended up on New Orleans’ 90-man offseason roster. One of the USFL’s top players might, however.

USFL Offensive MVP Darius Victor will audition for the Saints, Mike Triplett of tweets. As a member of the New Jersey Generals, Victor led the latest spring-league upstart with nine rushing touchdowns. While his 577 rushing yards did not lead the league, placing third, Victor earned MVP acclaim.

Like many in the USFL, Victor has an NFL past. Part of it came with the Saints, who signed the Division I-FCS product in August 2017. Victor’s New Orleans stay did not last beyond the 2017 training camp, and after he landed on the Cardinals’ practice squad later that year, the 5-foot-8 back was out of the NFL following Arizona’s 2018 camp.

Victor, 28, did not play in a regular-season game during his first go-round. The Towson alum saw CFL and XFL action over the next two years, however, and made his strongest impression this year. It would certainly an interesting re-emergence for Victor, given his short Saints stay five years ago, but the team does have questions in its backfield. The running backs coach in place during Victor’s 2017 Saints stint, Joel Thomas, also remains on staff under Dennis Allen.

Alvin Kamara‘s participation in a Las Vegas brawl during Pro Bowl weekend opens the door to a six-game suspension taking place this year. The Saints are thin behind their perennial Pro Bowl back. Mark Ingram is going into a rare age-33 running back season, and the team has Tony Jones, longtime special-teamer Dwayne Washington and ex-Jaguar Devine Ozigbo behind the well-known pair. Victor would face an uphill battle, USFL accolades notwithstanding, but the Saints are in need ahead of camp.

USFL Notes: Standouts, Rosters, Locations

The inaugural season of the 2022 iteration of the United States Football League is set to conclude Sunday night, as the Birmingham Stallions and Philadelphia Stars compete for the league’s first championship. NBC Sports’ Paul Burmeister provided a breakdown of the league’s first season of existence this week touching on several points with a few being relevant to the NFL. 

Burmeister made a point to mention a number of standout players for the USFL’s opening year:

  • LB Frank Ginda, Michigan Panthers. Ginda spent time on practice squads for the Cardinals, Dolphins, and Saints, taking time in between to participate in the short-lived Alliance of American Football and XFL 2.0. Ginda finished second in the USFL in tackles and came to the league to improve his abilities in pass coverage with playing experience.
  • RB Reggie Corbin, Michigan Panthers. Corbin’s head coach, Jeff Fisher, said himself that Corbin should be in the NFL. After four years at Illinois, Corbin got a workout for the Seahawks after college but tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival and was sent home before he could work out. He helped the Panthers lead the league in rushing yards per game this year.
  • LB Donald Payne, Houston Gamblers. Payne spent four years in the NFL, mainly as a core special-teamer in Jacksonville. The one player in the league with more tackles than Ginda, and the only player in the league with over 100 tackles, Payne made it clear that he isn’t aiming just to get another NFL opportunity, he’s aiming to make another NFL 53-man roster.
  • WR KaVontae Turpin, New Jersey Generals. Despite being on a team that ran the ball more than any other team in the USFL, Turpin led the league in receiving yards. He’s agile and tough with great top-end speed. His ability to shed tackles helped him excel as a return man this season. Turpin could easily find his way to the NFL with his receiving prowess and return abilities.
  • DE Chris Odom, Houston Gamblers. Odom spent time in the NFL playing for Atlanta, Green Bay, and Washington. Known more for stopping the run with his hand in the dirt, Odom took after ex-teammates Clay Matthews and Nick Perry and led the USFL in sacks and forced fumbles. He has NFL experience and proved that he can dominate the lower levels of professional football.

Here are a few other points that Burmeister touched on in his season breakdown:

  • When asked what comes next for the league, Burmeister brought up roster sizes. The initial roster rules allowed teams to have a total roster of 45 players with 38 active on gameday. Concerns over issues with in-game and practice injuries led the league to expand rosters to 50 total players with 40 allowed to be active on gamedays. That initial increase is likely just the beginning. With many teams hesitant to go full-contact in practices, in fear that they could suffer injuries that would diminish their already minuscule roster, more players would allow for more extensive practice sessions that could lead to an overall increase in quality of play.
  • Another factor Burmeister mentioned for what could be in store for the USFL’s future was locale. The league played all their games at one team’s home stadium in Birmingham, Ala. While Birmingham provided a great home-field advantage for the Stallions, attendance at games that didn’t include the hometown team was severely lacking. Noticing the drastic improvement of gameday action for Stallions’ games, the league has made plans to share the love. While not yet ready to give each team a home stadium and organize the travel necessary for such a scenario, the league has entertained the idea of providing one of the teams in their North Division the same advantage that Birmingham enjoyed. The four teams in the North Division that could potentially play host next season are the Michigan Panthers, the New Jersey Generals, the Philadelphia Stars, and the Pittsburgh Maulers.

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 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 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.