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UFL’s Strategic Play to Attract NFL Fringe Players

For a spring football league to thrive, getting recognizable names and talented players through the doors has to be the #1 priority. And despite narrowing down from 16 to 8 teams for the 2024 season, the newly-merged United Football League is doing exactly that.

While there have been some unique cases, like the San Antonio Brahmas signing YouTube star Donald De La Haye aka Deestroying to be their placekicker, much of this talent has been recruited from the margins of NFL rosters and practice squads.

The UFL’s focus on player development could make it an attractive option for sportsbook promos, as bettors try to predict the next breakout talent to come out of the upstart league.

Why are players choosing the UFL vs the NFL?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to playing time. While being on an NFL roster comes with the obvious perks of a higher salary and a chance to compete against better competition, it also comes with the inherent downside of leaving many players on the outside looking in come game day.

For NFL players in the UFL, they’re looking to put more game action on tape that can be used for the next season, in hopes of landing a larger role on an active roster. Already so far, 12 players who ended the season on NFL practice squads have signed with UFL teams.

This rings especially true for positions that don’t rotate like quarterbacks, punters, and kickers. With so few spots in these roles at the NFL level to shine, players can join the UFL and get a full season of reps to show prospective teams in the fall. Players taking this route in 2024 include former Ole Miss QB Matt Corral and former Pro Bowl punter Marquette King.

Just look at some of spring football’s most recent success stories. PJ Walker parlayed a dominant 2020 season with the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks into a multi-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, where he’s started nine games over the past four seasons as a reliable backup. On the special teams side punter Daniel Whelan made the 2023 All-XFL team as a member of the DC Defenders which eventually earned him the starting job with the Green Bay Packers.

Even looking at Week 1 of the 2024 UFL season, we already have a future star in the making. Jake Bates of the Michigan Panthers smashed a 64-yard game-winning kick and is already receiving interest from multiple NFL teams, including the Detroit Lions.

How many UFL players make the NFL?

By merging the talents of the USFL and the XFL, the UFL created an excellent selling point for interested players.

Across the two leagues last season, over 120 players ended up signing contracts with NFL teams in 2023, proving the league’s point that taking a pay cut to play more meaningful football upfront can lead to further success down the line. In 2024, expect results to be similar, especially in a smaller, more talent-laden league than ever before.

Overall, the results are clear. Get playing time in the UFL and play well, and you’ll more likely than not be getting some phone calls from NFL teams sooner rather than later.

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