Green Bay Packers

The New USFL Could Offer Players A Path To Green Bay's Roster

Photo Credit: Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The new United Football League, forged from the shards of the former XFL and USFL leagues, announced its schedule on Monday morning. With just one game left of the 2023 NFL season, the UFL is the only league football we’ll get until the 2024 season begins in late summer.

While some fans are just happy to have some form of the sport to follow, you may ask yourself, Why should I care about a league that doesn’t have the Green Bay Packers? Which is a fair question.

Spring football has had a rocky start throughout the last five years, but this merger should stabilize things. However, players from both leagues have worked their way into the NFL since 2020, and a few have even made solid names for themselves in the big leagues. The UFL offers a chance for players to prove that they deserve a shot in the NFL, and the Packers could find some intriguing players by tuning in this spring.

Good NFL teams must look into every possible form of player acquisition to succeed. A good general manager stays up to date on players and makes moves throughout the season. Free agency and the NFL draft see the most hype thanks to the big-name players, but it’s not the only route.

Consider how the Packers have found success with their pro player personnel scouting department, adding playmakers like Allen Lazard, Rasul Douglas, and Bo Melton from practice squads.

A spring league brings another opportunity to add players who are getting meaningful, competitive snaps. The league doesn’t conflict with off-season activities, allowing these players to put some tape together and make a team’s initial roster before training camp.

A decent amount of players from these leagues have earned spots on NFL rosters, with a few making names for themselves. Quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Taylor Heinicke started in the 2023 seasons and spent time in the XFL. Former USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey became the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker, earning two NFC Special Teams Player Of the Week awards and October’s NFC Special Teams Player Of the Month in his first season. That year in the spring league gave Aubrey an edge over other “first-year” kickers.

The Packers already have dipped into former USFL and XFL players, finding some success.

Green Bay found quarterback Alex McGough and center Cole Schneider from the USFL. Schneider had two short stints in Green Bay but didn’t see playtime. However, McGough was on the practice squad all season as the team’s QB3. The Packers added defensive back Elijah Hamilton and punter Daniel Whelan from the XFL. Hamilton’s time with the team was short, but Whelan became Green Bay’s punter and put together a nice season. Whelan should have a good chance of earning the job again in 2024.

College programs produce more NFL-ready players than ever, especially wide receivers and running backs. But many other positions aren’t quite as ready out of the box. Offensive line play feels down across the league, tackling isn’t as polished, and rookie kickers are generally bad.

The USFL offers a chance for players who might not get drafted to polish those vital skills further before earning a look from NFL programs. And even NFL programs can only do so much under the current rules. Those live game reps will set these players up for success in a way that’s hard to get elsewhere.

It’s fair to wonder if players will choose to spend time in the USFL before trying to make the NFL with a more stable spring league. Consider how many quarterbacks need time to adjust to the NFL. Getting live reps could speed up their NFL growth if they’re willing to take the risk.

And I already mentioned Brandon Aubrey, who came into his first NFL season with extra experience against higher completion than colleges can offer. It was a world of difference compared to drafted rookie kickers like Jake Moody or Anders Carlson.

The Packers have a tight cap and are committed to a youth movement. Therefore, the spring league is a chance to find role players, depth pieces, and special teamers who will have more experience and could be better than UDFAs or cheap veterans. Green Bay’s special teams could use an infusion of talent. Rich Bisaccia’s unit wasn’t especially impressive in 2023, and the team already found their punter from the XFL. The Packers could look to the USFL to find a long snapper, core teamers, and (at the very least) competition at kicker.

The spring leagues have been a fun time to get football in a footballless time, and the merged USFL should be the best version of the product. While fun in its own right, the USFL offers an additional avenue for player acquisition. The success stories of coming from the “minor league” to the NFL are fun, and some of these players could play a big role on your favorite team in the future.

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