USFL News Hub has learned that the USFL has in recent weeks added an updated ‘Option Year’ provision to player contracts to prevent them from leaping to other “unauthorized leagues.” The new clause states that if current USFL players land on NFL rosters this summer and are cut by their teams at any point before or during the 2022 NFL season, they will automatically revert back to the league and remain under contract until the end of the 2023 calendar year.
Preemptive Strike By The USFL
The option clause in USFL contracts was first reported here at Hub several months back. But this new addition to the standard player contract is a horse of a different color.
The new standard contract agreement is designed to prevent players who the USFL releases after the season for NFL opportunities from going to the on-coming XFL or CFL after being freed from their league contract and potentially released by an NFL team at any point.
The USFL’s revised player agreement has been handed down to all players under the original signed contracts. The hope is that they will sign and lock themselves into the new terms. The new stipulation has become mandatory for new players entering the league. The USFL recently expanded its rosters, and it’s believed that the new players who have entered the league have all agreed to the new player contract.
Sources have indicated that some agencies with players already signed to their original USFL contract before the season have opted out of signing the bilateral option clause. And as a result, their clients will be free to sign with any league they choose if an NFL opportunity does come along and if said player doesn’t make an NFL roster this summer/early fall.
The original agreement had the USFL having a bi-lateral option clause on all their players under contract. However, this new amendment has been put in place to close the loophole of the USFL’s best players being freed from their contracts and being free potentially to choose another league not named the NFL.
For NFL teams to sign or potentially give a tryout/physical, they require that players are not under contract with any other league. So if Kyle Sloter, for example, has interest from the Seattle Seahawks, the USFL must release him from its contract. Hence making Sloter legally a free agent. There are no guarantees that Sloter will make Seattle in the long run.
Therefore, once players are released from their USFL deal, they could legally sign on with an XFL, CFL, or other alternative leagues if they don’t land on an NFL roster long term because they are contractually free to exercise that option.
The new option year clause aims to prevent that possibility by having USFL players after this season, who don’t make NFL rosters, revert back to a USFL contract. It’s added protection by the league to prevent their best players who get shots in the NFL from jumping ship to the XFL or CFL, etc.
USFL News Hub has obtained the newly amended league contract terms delivered to agencies representing the league’s players.
The new agreement is effective July 2022. It runs from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. If agreed upon and signed, a player under the new contract agrees that if they enter into an employment agreement with “the Authorized Alternative League” (NFL), the agreement shall be deemed terminated provided that the player ceases his employment with the Authorized Alternative League (e.g., Player is cut from the applicable Authorized Alternative League team (NFL) at any time during the Term of the Agreement (i.e., before December 31, 2023). The agreement shall be reinstated, and the player will resume his employment with the USFL for the remainder of the Term.
“Upon such cessation of employment with the NFL, the Player shall promptly provide USFL with written notice. The Player also understands and agrees that he is otherwise not authorized to enter into, and will refrain from entering into, any contract or employment with any other professional football organization/third party (other than the NFL) during the Term. For the avoidance of doubt, unless the Agreement is terminated pursuant to its terms, at all times prior to December 31, 2023, a player shall either by an employee of the Authorized Alternative League or USFL and, in no event, shall be permitted to play competitive football for any third party during such term.“Excerpt from USFL Player contract.
The likelihood is that any player contract entered into the USFL after the season started will be more restrictive for USFL players. The league has drawn a line in its sand, and you can only play for an NFL team or us. And they have it in writing.
It’s unknown how many originally contracted players have signed the option year clause. But many have opted out of signing it.
The USFL Vs. The XFL
The USFL is trying to ensure that they keep as many players as possible from joining a competing league. Many competing football entities are not named the NFL, but this appears to be a direct attempt to block players from exploring a CFL opportunity, but more so the XFL specifically. The last thing the USFL wants is a dozen of their best 2022 players failing to make an NFL roster and then choosing to play in the XFL this coming February on ABC/ESPN.
The XFL football operations team has had several pitch meetings with player agents, many of who have NFL clients currently on NFL rosters and some of whom also have USFL clients, to sell them on their league as a more viable option for players. In terms of the league’s playing calendar (Feb-late April/May), advanced roster size, and player salaries which are expected to far exceed the 45,000 base average USFL players receive per season.
The Spring Pro Football Wars have only just begun.