By now, we all know about the circumstances that led to the cancellation of the 2020 XFLseason after just five weeks. But one thing that was consistent during those five weeks was strong quarterback play. Signal-callers became the centerpiece of the XFL based on the rules and style of play that the league employed upon its relaunch. And with the XFL now in hibernation until 2021, the league announced that its players are free to sign with other leagues.
While the rest of the sports world is on hold, the NFL has forged on with free agency as its league year has begun, albeit with limited human interaction. There are quite a few NFL franchises looking for new blood under center in 2020, so why not take a look at XFL talent? Here are some XFL quarterbacks who should be at a training camp near you come this summer.
P.J. Walker, Houston Roughnecks
Before joining the XFL, Walker was on the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad from 2017-19. Once he signed onto the XFL, he became the Roughnecks starting quarterback and would go on to lead the league in pass completions (119), passing yards (1,338), and touchdown passes (15). Walker also recorded the longest touchdown pass of the XFL season (84 yards), and he led all quarterbacks in both total yards (1,437) and total touchdowns (16).
Walker possesses arm strength, accuracy, efficiency, mobility, speed, and his ability to avoid the pass rush and make defenders miss became viral videos. Some have called him the XFL's Lamar Jackson. While that comparison may be a slight stretch, Walker's skill set would add an extra layer to any offense — or at least help an NFL team prepare against another mobile quarterback.
Jordan Ta'amu, St. Louis BattleHawks
The Hawaii native tried to latch onto the Houston Texans in 2019 after a solid college career at Ole Miss (2017-18). Unfortunately, the Texans weren't interested in his services, but that wound up being a good thing for the BattleHawks. Head coach Jonathan Hayes chose Ta'amu to be the face of the team that was tasked with rebuilding one of the most passionate fan bases in all of football. And that rebuild wound up being successful as Ta'amu guided the BattleHawks to a 3-2 record, finished third in passing yards (1,050), led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (217), and had the best completion percentage (72.0).
Ta'amu doesn't exactly have the arm strength of St. Louis' legends Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger, but the fans embraced him the same way because of his leadership skills, decision-making, toughness, and athletic ability. Those qualities would be a strong suit for any NFL team.
Josh Johnson, Los Angeles Wildcats
Johnson was well established in the football world before taking a snap in the XFL. From 2008 to '19, the San Diego University alum suited up for 14 different teams across the NFL and UFL. The XFL signed Johnson for his experience, and it paid dividends; he went 2-2 as the starter and finished as the XFL's leader in passer rating (106.3) and yards per attempt (8.0), while only trailing P.J. Walker in passing yards (1,076). He also ranked second in total touchdowns (12) and accounted for 307 total yards and four touchdown passes when the Wildcats scored a league-high 41 points against the Tampa Bay Vipers in Week 5. Johnson deserves another shot at the NFL, even if he's only a backup.
Taylor Cornelius, Tampa Bay Vipers
Don't let the Vipers' 1-4 record fool you; this team was on the verge of turning a corner before XFL play stopped. Cornelius was a major reason why this team was primed for whatever stretch run they were about to put together. He took over as the full-time starter in Week 3 after the planned rotation between him, Aaron Murray, and Quinton Flowers failed to bring success. Head coach Marc Trestman also handed the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo after Week 2. In the aftermath of those changes, Cornelius accounted for 858 passing yards, 114 rushing yards, and seven combined touchdowns.
With Cornelius under center, the Vipers went from scoring just 12 points in their first two games combined to scoring 86 total points over their final three matchups, including their only win over the DC Defenders in Week 3. When all was said and done, Cornelius' efforts played a major role in the Vipers finishing atop the league in total offense (391.8 ypg) and rushing offense (165.6 ypg). We'll just have to imagine what might have been if the Vipers finished the full season; perhaps the NFL can finish Cornelius' story.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of XFL.com)