The Stallions have stayed active all offseason; releasing players for NFL opportunities, signing players to replace those that left for the NFL, and re-signing former USFL players cut by NFL teams. It appears with the merger drawing closer Birmingham has added even more talent to their roster, also losing yet another player to the NFL, technically the 20th signing this season although this player previously had been signed and released by the Colts.
Now they’ve done all of those things in one day as they re-signed two former players, brought in a big name USFL free agent who had recently been in the NFL, brought in three new to the USFL players who were recently on NFL rosters, and released Pettway to pursue the NFL. All in a day’s work for Zach Potter and Skip Holtz.
Addition by Subtraction
The idea of addition by subtraction is typically a negative connotation. In this particular scenario, it’s actually a positive connotation. The Stallions continue to lose players to the NFL, but this can only be viewed as a good thing, especially when it comes to long-term ramifications of attracting free agent players to their roster.
Even after the NFL season began, the signings continue to trickle out of Birmingham. The NFL season kicked off on September 7th, after this point the signings slowed down, but they still saw Chris Pierce Jr., and Carlos Davis two players that were set to play in the 2024 version of the USFL for the first time, and LaMichael Pettway getting their chances back in the NFL.
Pettway is leaving the Stallions once again, but I wouldn’t count on this being a short separation. Signed late in the NFL season to add depth for the Patriots. This brings the Patriots to a total of five tight ends on the roster. The reason we see Pettway getting this chance is his positional versatility. He’s athletic enough to use as an emergency wide receiver, he’s capable of lining up as a fullback, playing nearly every special teams unit, and of course playing tight end.
If you look at the Patriots roster their tight end position doesn’t have the unique athlete that Pettway is. This also isn’t the first time the Patriots flirted with bringing Pettway in, in fact it’s the third. Shout out to my colleague Pat Rifino for reminding me that Pettway worked out with the Patriots twice after the 2022 season. During what basically amounted to a gathering of spring football players:
Pettway now gets to earn a chance to compete into next season if he performs well over the next few weeks in practice. The Patriots likely have one eye on next season given that they sit at 4-11, with only two teams holding a worse record. Before long the Patriots will be handing out futures deals, and Pettway could be on that list. Bringing in Pettway this late is likely a bigger indication they’re intrigued by his progress over the last season in the USFL, and want to see if they can put some more polish on his game and make him a viable NFL tight end.
Home Run Hitter
If you wanted, any indication of how players are beginning to look at the Stallions organization, this signing said at all. Kyahva Tezino was one of the top linebackers in the USFL in 2023. He lined up for the opposing Maulers against the Stallions twice in 2034 including the 2023 USFL Championship, and made an immediate impression in both games.
Tezino finished these two games with 24 tackles including 15 solo, and 1 tackle for a loss. He was flying around and everyone who paid attention took notice. Including a 2023 Super Bowl contender. San Francisco 49ers would offer him a one-year contract to come in and compete for a roster spot from the 2023 season. Unfortunately Tezino would find himself released, but allow himself the opportunity to pick is the next team.
When given the choice, he chose the Stallions. In a league where incentives are no longer a part of the contract and the championship win. Bonuses are the main form of extra financial motivation, players are simply choosing to increase their odds of winning in 2024. We have already seen the Stallions attract several players from the XFL and the USFL, who had signed NFL contracts, Tezino is simply the latest. Earlier this offseason they inked WR Gary Jennings, brought back Victor Bolden, Carlo Kemp, and signed former XFL 2020 player and NFL draft pick Kenny Robinson. This team is stacked with top end spring league talent.
Recent NFL Talent Testing Spring League Waters for the First Time
The Stallions also made a trio of signings from players with recent NFL ties. Offensive lineman Armani Taylor-Prioleau, as well as Wide Receiver Binjimen Victor.
Taylor-Prioleau is fresh off being released by the Dallas Cowboys where over the last two seasons he watched Kavonte Turpin, and Brandon Aubrey make their way onto the roster and stick. Now he joins the team Aubrey once played for to see if he can revive his NFL career after five seasons spread between the Browns, Bears, and Cowboys.
During his NFL Career he has worked under noted offensive line coaches, Bill Callahan, Juan Castillo, Joe Philbin, and Mike Solari. All of which are renowned for their ability to develop offensive linemen. He has bounced on and off active rosters and practice squads and continued to build on his experience. After not appearing in a game in 2020, he returned in 2021 and played 51 snaps. He was penalized once, allowed two pressures, and one sack. He finished the preseason with a total grade of 80.5, really shining in run blocking with an 83.5, and a 68.1 in pass blocking.
He saw a slight drop off in 2022 playing 149 snaps with 88 coming in passing situations. He graded similarly at a 64.4, while his run blocking plummeted to 50.7. It returned back to the average for his career in 2023 when he played 102 snaps. Grading 66 in the pass game, 63.8 in run blocking, and 62.9 overall. He heads into the 2024 USFL season as one of the more NFL experienced linemen in the league with most of the past five seasons on NFL rosters.
Well the Stallions must have heard my request for larger receivers, as they signed 6’3 198 lb Binjimen Victor. Victor is a 4.6 40-yard dash guy, but managed a 35 inch vertical on top of a 34 1/8 inch arm length making for a fairly large catch radius for the young receiver.
He would fall unselected in 2020 signing a contract with the New York Giants. He didn’t make the active roster and was instead released and brought back on the practice squad. He spent the entire 2020 season working under Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, and Tyke Tolbert.
In early 2021, he signed a futures deal with the Baltimore Ravens. He would compete for a roster spot all camp before being let go in final cuts. He spent the entire 2021 season with the Ravens practice squad, and ultimately signed a futures deal to return in 2022. He would again last until final cuts, and again be let go and brought back to the practice squad. This time he was elevated twice seeing action during the regular season and playoffs. The Stallions grab him after a year away from the NFL, hungry and ready for another opportunity.
Loyalty Goes a Long Way
The Stallions have shown some loyalty to players who have stuck with them over their two year run. The latest example of this was re-signing CB Bryan Mills, WR Adrian Hardy, and TE Thaddeus Moss. Earlier this offseason the Stallions had actually released Moss, and Mills. Hardy’s contract had simply expired after spending both seasons with the Stallions.
Mills is a former JUCO product who played his way into a bigger school before his junior season. Finishing his career at North Carolina Central University. Mills has NFL size at 6’2 190 lbs, this helped him latch on with Seattle as an undrafted free agent. Mills had been primed for a huge senior season after a big junior year that saw him intercept 5 passes, and knock down 8 more. Then COVID cancelled his senior season, and Mills opted to declare anyway.
Mills would run a 4.56 40-yard dash with a 1.61 10-yard split, he had a 37 inch vertical but only did 2 reps on the bench press. At his size, I believe this really hurt his stock, teams want to see strength in a player who stands 6’2 at cornerback so they can use him in press coverage and disrupt routes at the snap. This isn’t to say Mills can’t do it, but it gave teams pause as they looked at other options at the least.
Mills would spend his rookie year on four different rosters. His first stint was with Seattle. He was let go the day before Seattle played their first preseason game. He signed with the Saints days later just in time to play in two preseason games. He helped the Saints defeat the Jaguars in week two, and Chargers in week three. He played 43 snaps, 35 in coverage, 8 in the run game. It did not go well overall. Mills allowed 4 receptions on 6 targets for 80 yards. He missed one tackle, and allowed a 109.7 QBR when throwing his direction.
He was let go, signing with Cleveland spending most of the 2021 season under DC Joe Woods, DB coach, and assistant DB coach Brandon Lynch who have over 55 years experience coaching defensive backs or defenses combined. Mills was let go in late December, and signed with the Vikings. Four days later he was activated and made his NFL Debut on 1/9/21.
Since his rookie year it’s been quiet on the NFL front, and this led him to the 2022 USFL draft. Over the next two seasons with the Stallions he has started some games but hasn’t made any impact plays as of yet. With only 10 tackles to his name, he was not a big time contributor. I wonder if Mills wouldn’t be better suited to playing free safety going forward.
Thaddeus is the son of NFL Hall of Fame wideout Randy Moss. His father was once revered for his ability to blow past defenders with deceptive speed, and leap over them to make circus grabs this resulted in a term being coined at the time referring to that patented ability to catch passes over a defender. We began hear “you got Mossed” all over the place. With that in mind the younger Thaddeus had big shoes to fill coming out of high school when he committed to NC State.
After his true freshman season in 2016 he decided to transfer, and had to sit out the 2017 season due to transfer rules at the time. In 2018 he suffered an injury, and missed the entire season, using a medical redshirt to retain eligibility. This allowed him to return as a redshirt junior in 2019. He finally got the chance to play a significant role. He would set LSU tight end records for receptions and yards with 47 for 570 yards, adding 4 touchdowns. He managed 9 receptions 135 yards and 3 touchdowns in two bowl games that season. Those two scores helped Joe Burrow break the NCAA single season record for touchdown passes.
After finally having a solid season he opted not to exhaust his eligibility but it ultimately somewhat backfired as he came out in 2020. He was invited to the combine but never participated in drills, and wasn’t allowed to have a true pro-day. This severely hindered his draft stock. He went unselected, and signed with Washington as a UDFA. Unfortunately he suffered an injury and was waived with an injury designation and reverted to IR where he stayed for the 2020 season. Washington let him go in April.
He was claimed off waivers by the team that selected his college quarterback, and one of his fellow pass catchers the Cincinnati Bengals. Ultimately he would end up spending all of 2021 on the Bengals practice squad, and make it back onto the practice squad to begin 2022. He was released in September of 2022. Early in 2023 he worked out for an NFL team but wasn’t signed and opted to join the USFL.
Moss signed with the Stallions as a depth piece behind Sternberger, and Pettway. He was active for 8 games, but caught just 3 passes for 38 yards and 1 touchdown. Moss was released earlier this offseason, at the time the Stallions had added Chris Pierce Jr. however Pierce and Pettway got the call up, and Moss was brought back. There is a good chance Pettway sticks and Moss is your TE2 in Birmingham in 2024.
Adrian Hardy is headed into year three with Birmingham having slowly earned a larger role with the team. A former player of Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech, Hardy followed his coach and quarterback to the Stallions in 2022. You would assume given his connections to these two men he immediately walked into a starting role but you would be mistaken.
Hardy caught just 8 passes in year one for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns but scored in back to back games for the Stallions. Hardy would return in 2023 and take a larger role. He appeared in 8 games starting five. He caught 14 passes for 148 yards. Could he poised for a break out in year three? Typically things seem to click for receivers in their third year.
The Stallions are continuing to prepare as if they are making a run at a third straight championship. To them the opponents, the league name, etc don’t matter, all they needed to know was they were in the fight and that was enough.
Adding players that were just in the NFL in the last calendar year at nearly all levels since the offseason began, while retaining, and returning many of their previous players. I jokingly referred to this as Team 33, because they have had so many players signed by the NFL since their inception, but 2024 might see an even higher number signed if they continue to play at a championship level.