The USFL has opened up a free agency pool of league players who their teams have not re-signed for season three. The New Jersey Generals have added three new players from that crop: Memphis Showboats safety Antonio Reed, Michigan Panthers WR Joe Walker, and DL Ethan Westbrooks.
Each player brings value to a Generals team looking to rebound from a disappointing 3-7 campaign in 2023.
New Jersey Generals Add Three USFL Free Agents
WR Joe Walker has been one of the more underrated wide receivers in the USFL for the last two years. The 6’3, 210lb former Delaware alum has put together two quality seasons for the Michigan Panthers as a physical receiver in the pass and run game who can also contribute on special teams.
He fits the mold of what the Generals are looking for in their run-centric attack.
In 2022, Walker snabbed 26 receptions for 318 yards and three scores. He won USFL Offensive Player of the Week honors in Week 9 of his league debut season.
Walker bettered those receiving numbers in 2023, registering 40 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns in nine starts, including his best effort against the Generals last May, with a five-catch, 121-yard performance.
Defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks is a well-traveled veteran. The 32-year-old versatile 6’4, 287lb lineman has had a unique playing journey, spending time at three different college universities before going undrafted out of West Texas A & M.
Westbrooks spent several seasons in the NFL from 2014-2021, starting with the Rams for four years before spending time with the Raiders, 49ers, and Saints. The small college standout defied the odds, registering nine sacks and 79 tackles as a versatile depth piece in the NFL.
Westbrooks’s high character traits have shown out in the United States Football League, as he was named the USFL’s sportsman of the year this past season. He made his way initially to the USFL with the Pittsburgh Maulers before finishing up 2022 and 2023 with Michigan, registering 13 tackles and two sacks in the league.
With Ted Cottrell’s Generals’ defense, Westbrooks not only brings great leadership into the locker room. But his versatility to play inside at tackle or at end in a 34 alignment makes him a valuable addition.
Hard-hitting safety Antonio Reed is a strong addition to an already deep Generals safety room. NJ General Manager Billy Devaney adds Reed to a team that already features league standouts Shalom Luani, Dravon Askew Henry, and Paris Ford.
The 6′ 212lb DB Antonio Reed has played two seasons in the USFL, starting with the Tampa Bay Bandits and then the Memphis Showboats.
In 2022, the Nebraska alum registered 29 tackles for the Bandits on special teams and defense. In somewhat dubious fashion, Reed was the revived USFL’s first player to receive a suspension after sitting on an opponent’s head during a 34-3 loss to the New Orleans Breakers.
In 2023, Antonio Reed became more of a fixture in the starting lineup with Memphis, registering 30 tackles and one interception in seven starts. He brings physicality on defense and in special teams coverage to New Jersey’s defense.
The USF-Elephant in the room right now is the uncertainty surrounding the league’s potential merger with the XFL. With an uncertain regulatory approval process and with time ticking by. There are no guarantees that an on-field merger will occur between both leagues in 2024. If it occurs at all.
As a result, the USFL and their eight teams and the XFL and their teams have been conducting business as usual this offseason. Preparing for 2024 as if both leagues will be apart.
Will the New Jersey Generals be a part of the potential union that emerges once the smoke clears? There have been voices in both leagues from the onset of the merger talks that have detailed a potential union that includes fewer teams combined if both leagues partner up.
The entire USFL offseason has consisted of two-year players re-upping with their teams for a third season and beyond. This new free agency wrinkle accommodates the players who haven’t been retained by their teams or the select few who want a change of scenery. But what will the spring pro football scene look like in the near future?
The Generals are proceeding as if they will be back for year three. Here’s hoping that they will be and that maybe one day, they will be the league’s crown jewel, finally playing games in the tri-state area.