Written by Alex LeMere (@merekatkat)
The inaugural season of the new XFL was suddenly brought to a halt by the Coronavirus pandemic, which now leaves the league completely suspended until next season. But because of this, the XFL has now granted its players the chance to sign with NFL teams with their free agency period kicking off.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the XFL had informed its players on March 12 that after they completed their XFL team exit physicals on March 13, they would be free to sign with any league to continue their playing careers. The league started its official free agency started a couple days ago on March 18, and while no XFL stars have inked a NFL deal yet, teams are showing interest.
One XFL star that seems to be receiving the most interest so far from the NFL is Houston Roughnecks playmaking QB PJ Walker.
PJ Walker lit up the XFL through its 5 weeks, leading the Houston Roughnecks to an impressive 5-0 start. The Roughnecks signal caller led the XFL in passing yards with 1,338 yards (267.6 ypg) and 15 TDs with only 4 INTs on 184 attempts (65% completion rate). Walker’s QB Rating of 104.4 was second in the league only to LA’s Josh Johnson.
So far, it has been reported by Mark Berman of Fox 26, multiple NFL teams have already reached out to the Houston Roughnecks inquiring about PJ Walker. Among the teams reported to have interest, it seems as though the main players here are the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos.
Walker is a dual-threat playmaker, whose play style does resemble that of Russell Wilson. That’s why a team like Seattle or Arizona makes a lot of sense, as their offenses are already centered on similar playing style QBs, making Walker a prime backup QB candidate in either situation. Currently Arizona’s backup is Drew Anderson and Seattle’s depth chart behind Russell Wilson is empty, after not resigning Geno Smith. Bringing in an athlete of Walker’s caliber would instantly boost both teams’ QB depth, while giving him a chance to get up to NFL speed. The Broncos are also intriguing as a potential landing spot after waiving veteran Joe Flacco due to a failed physical, leaving their depth chart with last year’s second round pick Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel. Walker could be someone to bring in to spark a QB battle in Bronco’s camp, as many aren’t sold on Drew Lock. Another sleeper team that could bring in the Roughneck QB is the Carolina Panthers. Panthers hired new Head Coach Matt Rhule this offseason, and Rhule was Walker’s coach while at Temple, so the two have a history of success with each other. Not to mention it seems Cam Newton’s time in Carolina may be reaching an end; it would be the ideal time to bring in Walker to bolster their depth under center.
This wouldn’t be PJ Walker’s first NFL experience though. Walker started his football career as an UDFA with the Indianapolis Colts after a 4 year career at Temple, At Temple, Walker became their all-time leader in wins by a starting quarterback, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, attempts, total yards and total touchdowns all while leading them to their first conference title in almost 50 years and back-to-back bowl appearances.
With the Colts, Walker was signed, cut and re-signed to the Colt’s practice squad multiple times over 2 seasons, never giving up on his dream. Walker played with Andrew Luck, where he gained the respect of one of the league’s top QBs. Andrew Luck’s father, Oliver Luck, became the XFL’s commissioner and when he was assigning QB’s to the eight XFL teams had his son in his ear raving about PJ Walker. “Andrew had been pushing him to me,” Oliver said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “He said, ‘Dad, I’m telling you, this guy can play. He’s a good kid and a hard worker, and he’s hungry to play.’”
Just like that, Walker was assigned to the Houston Roughnecks and the rest is history. I fully expect a team to bring in Walker to compete in the coming weeks, hopefully paving the path for other XFL standouts to get a shot at the NFL.
Former NFL journeyman and Los Angeles Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson and St. Louis Battlehawks’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu are also XFL playmakers who have earned a shot at the NFL.