XFL

XFL 2021 Return In Play?

Spring football may have another chance. Despite the in-season cancellations of the Alliance of American Football and the XFL the past two years, the latter may try to relaunch one more time.

The XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, and Vince McMahon put the league up for sale earlier this month. Contrary to some rumblings, McMahon confirmed he has no plans to buy back the league at a lower cost, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan (subscription required).

However, bidders have emerged, with Kaplan adding that potential buyers have indicated they would plan a 2021 XFL season. The league’s investment bank, Houlihan Lowkey, indicated “dozens” of prospective buyers have surfaced. Most are eyeing a spring 2021 season, Kaplan notes.

Although the 2020 XFL season did not make it as far as 2001’s did, the product was better received than the more sensational endeavor was 19 years ago. XFL’s first effort made it through the season but did not return for a second year. The COVID-19 pandemic ended up nixing the rebooted season halfway through its 10-game slate, and several XFL 2.0 standouts have landed on NFL rosters.

The second XFL effort included messy fallout as well. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon in April. Several of the eight teams’ presidents filed claims to collect their pay, Kaplan writes in a separate piece. The sale process may drag on until September, Kaplan adds. This would complicate matters regarding player acquisitions for a potential 2021 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vince McMahon Puts XFL Up For Sale

Could the XFL reemerge for a third time? After shutting down the league, laying off all of its employees, and declaring bankruptcy, Vince McMahon has put the XFL up for sale, according to Dan Primack of Axios.

[RELATED: Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon]

The XFL and its managing investment bank has requested letters of intent to be submitted by June 12. After that, formal bids will be due on July 6. Together, they’re attempting to make a case for someone to purchase the XFL. They say the league was on track for $46MM in revenue last year with an average game attendance of 20K. While those attendance numbers might be accurate, the league was said to be handing out lots of free tickets to fill the seats.

It’ll be tough for the WWE czar to find a taker, industry investors tell Primack, though one source says it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

There are lots of people who are very rich but not rich enough to own an NFL team, so maybe someone will see this as the next best thing at a bargain price,” said the investor, who is not personally mulling a bid for the XFL.

The XFL released players from their contracts on March 12, allowing quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, and others to seek NFL deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Draft Former XFL S Kenny Robinson

The XFL is on the board. With the sixth pick in Round 5, the Panthers selected safety Kenny Robinson, who last played for the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Before his half-season in Vince McMahon‘s rebooted league, Robinson starred at West Virginia. As a sophomore, he made first-team in the conference, notched 77 stops, and hauled in a team-leading four interceptions. Then, he was ejected from the Mountaineers’ bowl game and booted from the program for alleged academic fraud.

With wingspan to swat passes and aggressive tackling (albeit, sometimes too aggressive), Robinson will look to make the cut in Carolina.

Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck is taking Vince McMahon to court, as Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic writes. Luck is seeking restitution for what he says was a wrongful termination. 

[RELATED: XFL Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy]

The XFL shut down operations in the midst of its comeback season and, recently, filed Chapter 11 to renegotiate its debts. Meanwhile, Luck was set to earn at least $20MM on the multi-year contract he signed back in 2018. McMahon’s attorney says a letter was given to Luck to explain “the reasons” for his firing. In short, Luck is set to argue that he was fired without cause; McMahon will contend that he was fired with cause and, therefore, he does not owe him anything.

Luck helped steward the league’s relaunch, even as he and McMahon watched the Alliance of American Football beat them to the punch.

“We watched them closely,” Luck said in the summer of 2019. “Personally, there was no dancing on the grave, no schadenfreude. I was hoping they’d make it through their championship game. … It’s helped us a little bit, reaffirmed our model. The AAF also made some mistakes. (The Apollos), in the sports business, that’s like a pilot forgetting to turn the engine on.”

The XFL has laid off all of its employees with no current plans to resume operations, so this could be the last we see of the experimental league. However, McMahon may have lots of legal filings and court dates ahead of him – that’s usually the way things go for companies that file bankruptcy.

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, should be able to land on his feet once the dust settles. After earning his law degree, Luck held key positions in the NFL, NCAA, and MLS.

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XFL Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The XFL has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (on Twitter). By going Chapter 11 instead of Chapter 7, the XFL is enabling itself to renegotiate debts, rather than liquidating its assets. In theory, the Chapter 11 designation would also allow the XFL to continue operations. 

[RELATED: XFL Suspends Operations, Lays Off Employees]

Late last week, the XFL suspended its operations and laid off all of its employees. On a company-wide conference call to announce the news, COO Jeffery Pollock did not provide any indication that the league would reopen. The decision to go Chapter 11 instead of Chapter 7 does not mean that the league is planning to make another return, but it does leave the door open slightly. In reality, a second XFL comeback is probably the furthest thing from Vince McMahon‘s mind right now.

The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football,” the XFL said in a statement (via TMZ). “Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”

This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”

In the process, TMZ hears that the XFL has lost “tens of millions in revenue.” Still, the league paid its employees through April 12, weeks after the 2020 season was cancelled midway through. Meanwhile, XFL players have been freed to seek deals with NFL teams.

XFL Suspends Operations, Lays Off Employees

The XFL has suspended operations and laid off its entire workforce, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The XFL was already on the ropes thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic and this could prove to be the knockout blow. 

Vince McMahon attempted to reboot his football league with a ten-game (re)inaugural season, but he was forced to shut things down halfway through. Initially, the XFL expressed confidence that it would return in 2021, but McMahon might be forced to close up shop on the XFL for a second time.

Similar to the first time around, the XFL received mixed reviews from fans. The league did well in TV ratings to start the year as viewers looked for post-Super Bowl entertainment, but interest tailed in the following weeks. Still, the XFL featured a host of notable names and those players were released from their contracts on March 12, freeing them to pursue deals with NFL teams. Quarterbacks Josh JohnsonP.J. WalkerJordan Ta’amu were among those who were in, then out, of the XFL 2.0.

XFL employees will be paid through Sunday, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. In his conference call with employees, COO Jeffery Pollock did not provide a timeline for when operations might resume.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks, Cardinals, Broncos Interested In XFL QB P.J. Walker

The second incarnation of the XFL didn’t make it a full season due to COVID-19, but before that things had been going surprisingly well. Things were much smoother than in the ill-fated AAF, and some players are already starting to reap the benefits.

The Seahawks, Cardinals, and Broncos have all reached out to the Houston Roughnecks to express interest in their quarterback P.J. Walker, a source told Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). XFL players are allowed to sign with the NFL starting Monday morning, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets, and it sounds like Walker could get scooped up pretty quickly.

The Temple product signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and spent most the next three years on their practice squad. Walker became one of the first stars of Vince McMahon’s upstart league, as he led the Roughnecks to a perfect 5-0 start before the rest of the season was cancelled.

In those five games Walker had 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading the league in both categories. Now we see why Indianapolis kept bringing him back each offseason. All three of the interested teams won’t be looking at Walker as anything more than a backup, but he could make for a good reserve option as all three have similarly athletic and mobile starters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

XFL Players Can Immediately Sign With NFL Teams

Now that the XFL has canceled the remainder of its 2020 season, XFL players are now allowed to sign with the NFL or any other league as soon as their exit physicals are completed on Friday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).

The XFL had only completed half of its 10-game season, and was scheduled to hold a title game in late April. XFL players previously wouldn’t have been allowed to sign NFL contracts until the completion of the 2020 XFL campaign. But now, those players have an immediate shot at the NFL, and Pelissero mentions XFL stars such as quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu could find deals quickly.

Walker, specifically, has already drawn interest from the Seahawks after putting together an excellent half-season for the Houston Roughnecks. He was leading the XFL in both passing yards and touchdowns while guiding Houston to an undefeated record, so the former undrafted free agent and Colts practice-squadder could be of interest to Seattle and other teams.

XFL Cancels Remainder Of 2020 Season

The XFL is reportedly suspending play due to the outbreak of COVID-19, sources tell Pro Football Talk. XFL players were notified as such within the past hour, per Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link).

The league has since confirmed that it will not play any more games in the 2020 season, but is confident it will return for the 2021 campaign. The XFL, which has played half of a 10-week schedule, was scheduled to field a title game on April 26.

In closing its doors, the XFL is following the lead of other major sports organizations around the country and the world. The NBA, NHL, and MLS have all halted their seasons for the time being, MLB is suspending spring training, and the NCAA has canceled March Madness.

NFL clubs, meanwhile, have begun closing their facilities and canceling predraft preparations, but thus far, the league hasn’t given any indication that it will delay the start of free agency, which is set to begin next week. The NFL has scrapped its upcoming spring meetings, but some teams are frustrated with the lack of communication from the league offices regarding coronavirus protocol.

Extra Points: Broncos, XFL, Vikings, Hawks

Derek Wolfe has made it clear for months he would like to return to the Broncos, but the eight-year veteran does not want to take a pay cut to do so, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Both Wolfe and Shelby Harris are free agents, and Klis adds the Broncos will not bring back both players. It will be an either/or setup, or the Broncos will let both walk and essentially remake their defensive line. Both were starters over the past three seasons. Wolfe has been a Denver starter since his 2012 rookie slate and joins Chris Harris in being first-stringers from the team’s Super Bowl champion defense set to hit the market. Shelby Harris, 28, joined the Broncos in 2017, after being out of football in 2016, and will be in demand on the market. The Broncos met with Wolfe’s agent at the Combine.

Denver extended Wolfe, now 29, on a four-year, $36.75MM deal in January 2016. With John Elway indicating defensive line doubles as this free agent class’ deepest position, it is certainly possible the team moves on from Wolfe rather than give him a third contract — north of that $9MM-per-year rate — as he enters his 30s.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Vikings tight end David Morgan missed all of last season because of a knee injury, and Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes his contract will toll to 2020. Morgan’s contract was set to expire after the 2019 season, making him a first-time free agent this year. But after spending last season on Minnesota’s PUP list, Morgan will again be tethered to the Vikings this year. The rate will depend on the CBA. If the players reject the owners’ proposal, Morgan will make $735K again. If the CBA is ratified this week, Morgan’s salary would spike to $825K. A sixth-round pick in 2016, Morgan has 16 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown in his three seasons with the Vikings.
  • One of the XFL’s top players has drawn interest from the Seahawks. Seattle scouts were on hand at Saturday’s Seattle Dragons-Houston Roughnecks game, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting they were looking into Roughnecks quarterback Phillip Walker. The former NFL practice squad passer has Houston as the XFL’s lone unbeaten, at 5-0. His last NFL connection came in a Buccaneers workout in September 2019. Walker, 24, bounced on and off the Colts’ practice squad in 2018. The Seahawks used Geno Smith as Russell Wilson‘s backup last year; he is now a free agent. XFLers cannot sign NFL deals until the XFL season ends in April.
  • Speaking of the XFL, their kickoff setup has drawn some notable praise. Packers president Mark Murphy is a fan of the league’s kickoffs and its post-touchdown format, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets. The XFL placing 10 members of the kickoff and kick-return teams five yards across from each other naturally stands to reduce high-speed collisions the NFL has sought to minimize for years. The XFL replaced extra-point kicks with one-, two- or three-point conversions — from the 2-, 5- and 10-yard lines — in its second go-round.