By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
That number does not surprise John Peterson, director of player personnel for the USFL. And he expects more to follow in the coming months.
“It’s provided an opportunity for these players,” Peterson said of the USFL. “The NFL has been able to watch film from our games each week and see who they want to evaluate further. They really had a chance to get a good evaluation of each player, either on tape or in person.”
“It’s a benefit,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels told reporters when asked about the USFL. “There’s a lot of guys who continue to work hard. They want to achieve their dream of playing in the National Football League and creating a career for themselves.
“There was a lot of good football played when you watched that league. And we’re not the only team that has grabbed a few of those guys and tried to add them to our roster.”
McDaniels is right. Those 21 players signed so far to NFL training camp rosters represent all eight USFL teams. They include league MVP KaVontae Turpin, who officially signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, USFL championship MVP Victor Bolden Jr. (Arizona Cardinals) and quarterbacks Kyle Sloter (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Luis Perez (Los Angeles Rams).
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“To have this opportunity to come back out and play in the league is a blessing,” Bolden said. “I’m looking forward to taking advantage of all my opportunities and make the best of it.”
Daryl Johnston, EVP of football operations for the USFL, said that with the number of draftable players nearly doubling for the 2022 NFL Draft, rookies not initially selected or signed found an opportunity to show what they could do in the USFL this season.
“If that traditional path doesn’t work out for you, there’s another way to do this now,” Johnston said recently. “You can be nontraditional. As soon as that draft is over, you don’t have to wait on a call for an NFL rookie minicamp.
“We can get you in, get you five or six weeks of film and maybe change the perception of you as a player with some of the franchises around the NFL — and maybe get you an invitation to training camp.”
NFL agent Don Yee founded HUB Football as a one-stop shop to bridge the gap for street free agents looking to connect with pro teams. He believes the USFL provides another opportunity for back-end roster players to show that they can compete for NFL jobs.
“They had a very successful first season,” Yee said of the USFL. “I thought the quality of play was high for the first season and improved as the season went along. And I believe it holds great promise.”
Here’s the list of USFL players who have signed so far with NFL teams:
WR Victor Bolden Jr.
Gates, who started on Birmingham’s championship defense, is off to the Windy City to play for the Chicago Bears.
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The big-bodied receiver averaged 14.5 yards per reception this season and was signed to the 90-man roster with the Green Bay Packers.
DT Doug Costin
DL Chris Odom
Odom, who racked up 12.5 sacks last season, is joining the Cleveland Browns.
WR Isaiah Zuber
The new Raider led the USFL with five touchdown receptions during the regular season.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive lineman signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Davis finished with 57 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Gamblers.
The Indiana product signed with the Bengals after spending some time on their practice squad last season.
CB Tino Ellis
Ellis, who signed with the Miami Dolphins, totaled 35 combined tackles and an interception for the Panthers.
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CB DeJuan Neal
Neal, who finished with 16 combined tackles for the Generals, signed with the Washington Commanders.
QB Luis Perez
Perez returns to the Rams for his second stint with the team, having spent time with L.A. in 2018.
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WR KaVontae Turpin
The TCU product returns to Texas to compete for a roster spot with the Cowboys, who are in need of receivers.
CB Ike Brown
Brown finished with 16 combined tackles and two interceptions for the Breakers, including one returned for a score. He signed with the Raiders heading into training camp.
TE Sal Cannella
Sam started the USFL season with the Tampa Bay Bandits but finished with the Breakers. He totaled 54 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, and an interception. The Texas native signed with the Cowboys.
QB Kyle Sloter
Sloter threw for 1,798 yards and nine touchdowns for the Breakers and signed with the Jaguars to compete for a backup QB spot.
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WR Devin Gray
After going through a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs, the team signed Gray to a one-year deal.
Stribling, who led the USFL with seven interceptions, signed with the Commanders.
Gaither had 24 receptions for 328 yards and four touchdowns in the USFL. He signed a deal to go to training camp with the Baltimore Ravens.
DT Carlo Kemp
Kemp finished with 26 combined tackles, including five for loss, and five sacks for the Maulers. He signed with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The interior defensive lineman finished with 32 combined tackles and two sacks in the USFL. He signed with the New England Patriots.
Davis finished with 22 receptions for 369 yards and two scores. He signed with the New York Jets.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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