The Generals have wasted absolutely no time in getting to work for the 2024 season immediately turning to re-signing players that they coveted for 2024, with ten different players re-signed since the season closed just weeks ago.
With the latest announcement zeroing in on four players in this round, one thing is becoming more and more clear. The Generals and their front office believe in the roster they built to this point. With roughly a fifth of the roster re-signed less than a month away from the season, it appears their roster will be in game shape for 2024 in no time. It should be interesting to track if this translates to more success in season three, and follow the turnover across the league.
“How Sweet it Is To Be Loved by You”
This offseason could mark the true beginning to Spring Football Free Agency when we see players from the USFL faced with a choice of returning to the USFL on a second contract, or looking to other options. So far the Generals have incredible success retaining their own players, which speaks to the relationships this staff has built with their players. It seems these Generals players are feeling the love from their coaches, and it shows by how quickly these re-signings are taking place. For some of these guys this is the first time they will ever ink a second contract with the same team and be given an opportunity to continue to build on their previous success.
Believed to be two year deals similar to the six players previously re-signed this not only gives the players peace of mind, but it also will clearly highlight positions of need much in advance of next season. Giving the staff the most time possible to track down the best players available to fill the remaining openings.
New Jersey Reviving Run First Offenses
So far the Generals have shown they plan to run it back with the men responsible for the rushing attack. Bringing back offensive linemen Isaiah Battle, and Calvin Ashley, tight end Wes Saxton, as well as their top two running backs in Darius Victor, and Kingston Davis. This round saw them again double down on bringing back quality run blockers. Re-signing tight end Braedon Bowman was a move that should have been expected. Moore is also a capable blocker at wide receiver as well, a player willing to do the dirty work when asked.
Bowman and Sexton have split reps at tight end since being drafted in 2022. Bowman is a guy whose career nearly came to a halt after the AAF collapse in 2019. It took three full years before the former Birmingham Iron player was signed to another professional contract. The USFL came calling in their 2022 draft class reviving what looked to be a long dormant career.
Bowman seemed excited to be joining the USFL, and in particular Coach Mike Riley in an interview with 24/7 Sports he said: “I think it’s a coaching staff. So, I knew probably ten players ever since we were drafted in the whole thing. I know this coaching staff has had good success. Coach (Mike) Riley was at Oregon State and also had a great offense at Nebraska. So, I know this coaching staff will be really good.”
Since then Bowman has reminded people why he was given an NFL contract as a UDFA in 2016. In two seasons Bowman has been targeted 58 times catching 31 passes for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. He played in all 10 games in 2023, which led to his most receptions as a pro, and his most productive season dating back to 2013 his sophomore year of college. Bowman has never truly been used as a receiver as much as he was this year even though he has shown he could do it no issue. He is also a graduate of the University of South Alabama which helped his cause to be drafted by the USFL.
At this point in his career Bowman may never get much better than he is right now, but the good news for the Generals is that likely means they will continue to have Bowman’s services for many years to come. Having not signed an NFL contract since 2018, it’s unlikely another NFL offer coming when he will turn 30 just before the season. Just think, if not for alternative football leagues he would have been out of football almost six years ago.
Alonzo Moore, Wide Receiver
The Generals have decided to they want to see Moore of Alonzo after two seasons with the team. Moore during that stretch developed a rapport with his quarterbacks, often making circus catches:
The bulk of Moore’s professional career has come in NFL alternatives. The former Nebraska Cornhusker signed with the Chiefs after going undrafted in 2017 following a five year college career. He played in 44 games primarily as a rotational receiver starting just 18 games. He collected 60 receptions for 981 yards and 8 touchdowns during college leaving questions about his translation to the pro ranks.
After two seasons bouncing around practice squads Moore turned his attention to the upstart Alliance of American Football. Joining the San Antonio Commanders. In 8 games Moore again was coming off the bench starting just one time. Targeted 22 times he caught 13 passes for 218 yards before the AAF ceased operations. This left Moore to seek out an XFL opportunity which he found in Seattle.
While with the XFL, Moore found a larger role playing in all five games starting two. He saw 14 targets catching 8 passes for 110 yards. Working with Brandon Silvers. I point all this out to say Moore had options headed into 2024. He likely could have found a roster spot waiting for him in the XFL, and there’s a good chance the CFL had interest as well.
One fact to consider in why he would choose to return rather than choose the unknowns the other options would provide, is that Moore has had back-to-back seasons in which he nearly matched, or topped his previous career highs of 24 receptions for 395 yards and 6 touchdowns set in 2015.
In 2023 he set a new career high with 28 receptions. Producing 348 yards and 5 touchdowns. This brings his USFL totals to 51 receptions for 713 yards and 5 touchdowns. Keep in mind Moore only caught 60 passes in 44 games at Nebraska. In 20 games with the USFL he is just 9 receptions, and 268 yards off his career mark for college, he has already matched his touchdown output. For his professional career he stands at 110 targets , 72 receptions, 1,041 yards and 8 touchdowns it only took him 33 games to get there.
Proof Alternative Football Leagues Work
Moore and Bowman both are examples of why leagues like the AAF, XFL, and USFL NEED to exist. Both players have risen to heights that they never managed on a big time college stage. Now they’ve solidified what look to be long term professional careers with one of the steadier USFL franchises led by a veteran coach who has mastered how to maximize his players and scheme to their strengths. There’s a reason why Mike Riley took home 2022 Coach of the Year Honors.
Both of these men also represent long term core players for the Generals roster. They’re at a point in their careers where they likely will play out the remainder of their careers in alternative leagues. Smart move by the Generals staff to balance the roster with young players who are just beginning to launch their careers and veterans whose NFL window may have closed years ago.
With six offensive players re-signed the Generals also looked to bring back a couple very talented young defensive players. Safety Paris Ford is just 25 years old heading into his fourth professional football season, while Chris Orr is just 26 years old and coming off being named All-USFL, and showing he can still rush the passer.
Paris Ford, Safety
Paris Ford is a case unlike Moore or Bowman. Ford’s career has only just begun having declared for the 2021 draft. He was ranked by some outlets as a late round prospect but he fell undrafted. This led him to sign a UDFA deal with the Los Angeles Rams. Sean McVay and company have a long history of signing former alternative league players, this time they cut a future alternative league player.
In 2022 Ford entered another draft, the USFL draft. The Pittsburgh native and alum was selected by the New Jersey Generals, but didn’t start the year on the active roster. In fact, Ford wasn’t elevated to the roster until April 30th just after week two. Ford quickly earned a reputation as a guy who would lay the wood on anyone who had the ball.
Ford is a guy who was uniquely affected by COVID 19. In his third season in 2020, and just his second as a starter, Ford originally continued to play. Then midway through the 2020 campaign Ford opted out to return home and help his family financially during times that were tough for everyone. Forgoing his remaining eligibility he declared for the 2021 NFL draft after 146 tackles, 14 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 6 interceptions with 1 touchdown.
This stat line came in just 29 games, and that’s considering the first 9 games he played primarily special teams collecting just 5 tackles. Meaning 141 came in just 20 games that’s an average of over 7 tackles per game. Ford’s pro-day numbers would scare away most who haven’t watched Ford play. Ford ran a 4.75 40-yard dash. It’s not a death sentence for a safety but it’s a number most NFL teams will not be thrilled by.
Had the USFL or XFL been around in late 2020 Ford could have followed the lead of Kenny Robinson who left college for financial reasons, went to the XFL which left him NFL Draft Eligible. He went on to be selected by the Carolina Panthers. However now just 25 years old, Ford is the same age as some NFL rookies, with two seasons of professional experience.
Active for a total of 17 regular season games with just 7 starts Ford has 59 tackles, 4 for a loss, 4 pass break ups and 2 interceptions. He could be a name to watch for NFL consideration if he is given an opportunity to start a full season in 2024. Quite honestly he should likely be given that opportunity this season even if it was strictly on a practice squad.
Chris Orr, Linebacker
Chris Orr is a very solid linebacker who has earned accolades at the college and professional level. Attending Wisconsin Orr would play in 10 games with 6 starts as a freshman. He produced 46 tackles, 2 for a loss, and .5 sacks, heading into his sophomore season it was expected that he would start immediately, and he did. However his season ended on his first defensive snap of the season, when he tore an ACL.
As a junior he would not return as a starter instead he played in 13 games starting just one game. This didn’t prevent him from making an impact, he would win the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year award. This came while picking up 27 tackles, 1 for a loss, and 2 fumble recoveries. His final season of college he added second team all big ten to his resume. He managed this after racking up 11.5 sacks, 78 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 5 pass break ups, 2 forced fumbles and 1 recovery.
His 11.5 sacks were the most ever by an inside linebacker in Wisconsin history and the Badgers managed 51 sacks as a team a school record as well. This season came at the perfect time for Orr who was headed to the draft in 2020. However his NFL Draft Stock was sunk by the lack of a true combine and proday circuit. Had he put together a solid performance in the combine maybe he winds up as a late round pick, maybe he would still be in the NFL?
Regardless he would end up signing a UDFA deal with the Carolina Panthers. While he was let go in final cuts, they immediately offered him a spot on their practice squad. He would end up called up to active duty for two games before being signed to the active roster on November 21st and remain on the roster until being waived on December 12th three weeks later. Again Carolina brought him back on the practice squad.
He remained on the practice squad the rest of the season signing a futures deal after the conclusion of the year. It looked like Orr had made an impression and would be given a chance to make the roster for the 2021 season. Then the draft came and went, and another future USFL linebacker was signed resulting in Orr’s release. That was Paddy Fisher who had also played on the senior bowl team the Panthers staff had coached.
(Also signed was future Maulers FB/TE Mason Stokke. Small world in the pro ranks.)
After being let go in late May the hope was another team would pick him up. Only it never happened. Luckily for him the USFL was kicking off and needed players to fill their rosters. Orr jumped on the chance to continue his professional career.
He would end up drafted by the Generals signing a standard two year contract with the team. Over the next two seasons he showed exactly why Carolina once held him in such high regard: 18 games, 147 tackles, 10 for a loss, 3 pass break ups, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery. He would also be named All USFL in 2023 after averaging just under 10 tackles a game. Why he hasn’t gotten an NFL offer since 2021 is beyond me, especially given he just turned 26 years old.
With the Generals having already re-signed ten members from their roster, they have already locked up nearly 20% of their 2024 roster. I expect these re-signings to continue coming from New Jersey. The Generals have won 13 games under Mike Riley in two seasons. While the 2023 season ended with the Generals out of the playoffs, their run in 2022 should not be forgotten. They were one of the most dominant teams in the league last season. I also expect the Generals to see at least a 6-4 record in 2024.
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