As the NFL season winds down, hundreds of NFL Practice Squad players now find themselves in a bit of flux going forward now that their teams on currently out of the playoff hunt. While many may be offered “solidified” contracts with other NFL teams, many will be offered the mysterious “futures” contract in hopes of extending their NFL careers.
So what is a futures contract?
You’d think it’s a pretty simple explanation. A contract for the future. Well-duh, but what it really means is that it allows teams to retain the rights of a specific player during the NFL Off-Season, essentially keeping them on shelf, until another shiny object comes a long and NFL team would rather have another player vs the retained player, they offered a contract to in January vs. an available player in March.
Some teams do this even while in the playoffs, while others start as soon as the season is over. The futures contract is technically the same as an active roster contract that follows the same rules regarding vet-minimums, cap hits, and signing bonuses, but does not come into effect until the “league year” begins and counts against the team’s 90-man camp roster.
Why Do Teams Use a Futures-Deal and For Who?
So as stated the futures deal is a great way of securing fringe players, while not offering an active roster contract. Players eligible for this are practice squad guys, or unrestricted free agents. However, an unrestricted free agent is able to get signed up by other teams. While most Futures Contracts are worth the Vet-Minimum however, futures contracts can exceed that based on team needs with bonuses etc.
What’s Next for USFL Players?
At the end of the season the USFL saw 24 of their players on NFL practice squads or active rosters after Week 18, with several players still “active”, due to their teams being in the playoffs. 17 of those players ended the season on the practice squad, while Alex Akingbulu, DeMarquis Gates, Tucker Addington, Tae Haynes, KaVontae Turpin, Chris Odom (IR), Micah Abernathy all ending the season on their teams Active Roster or Injured Reserve.
Currently ten USFL players have been signed to futures deals, with one USFL player still on a practice squad (Domenique Davis) whose team is still in the Playoffs. Currently Lance Lenoir, Case Cookus, Brock Miller, Mitch Fraboni, Ramiz Ahmed, Taylor Bertolet (PS Injured Reserve) remain unsigned and are true free agents.
|USFL Players||Position||USFL Team||2023 NFL Team||Result||Career Earnings|
|Victor Bolden||WR||Stallions||Cardinals||Signed to Futures||$982,054|
|Isiah Zuber||WR||Gamblers||Raiders||Signed to Futures||$579,691|
|Jeremiah Pharms||DL||Maulers||Patriots||Signed to Futures||$207,000|
|Carlo Kemp||DL||Maulers||Chargers||Signed to Futures||$221,200|
|Ike Brown||DB||Breakers||Raiders||Signed to Futures||$246,167|
|Domenique Davis||DL||Gamblers||Bengals||Team in Playoffs||$274,484|
|Tino Ellis||CB||Panthers||Dolphins||Signed to Futures||$277,000|
|KaVontae Turpin||WR||Generals||Cowboys||3-Year Deal||$705,000|
|Darrin Paulo||OL||Bandits||Lions||Signed to Futures||$444,500|
|Alex Akingbulu||OL||Stars||Commanders||Active Roster/Unrestricted Free Agent||$900,500|
|Maurice Alexander||WR||Stars||Lions||Signed to Futures||$575,670|
|Tae Haynes||CB||Stallions||Panthers/Patriots||Active Roster/Unrestricted Free Agent||$1,124,844|
|Chris Odom||DL||Gamblers||Browns||Injured Reserve||$1,160,647|
|DeMarquis Gates||LB||Stallions||Bears||Active Roster/Unrestricted Free Agent||$313,001|
|TJ Carter||DL||Panthers||Saints/Rams||Signed to Futures||$417,169|
|Micah Abernathy||S||Gamblers||Packers/Falcons||Active Roster/Unrestricted Free Agent||$375,668|
|Tucker Addington||LS||Gamblers||Cowboys||Active Roster/Unrestricted Free Agent||$728,000|
|Hunter Thedford||TE/OT||Maulers||Patriots/Broncos||Signed to Futures||$57,500|
While Domenique Davis seems to be a prime candidate to return to the Bengals as the team has already elevated him and signed him to their Active Roster at one point in the season as well. For the remaining six players, and unrestricted free agents like Tucker Addington, look for them to be signed once teams start free agent negotiations come in March. Players who aren’t picked by NFL teams could return to the USFL, as if going off last season’s schedule could start around the 3rd week of March or so.
So, what’s next for the USFL alumni who were signed to the NFL Futures deal, well time will tell. As we’ve seen happen over the course of the NFL waiver wire a futures contract doesn’t mean much. Many active USFL players have been signed to Futures deals only to be waived prior or after the Draft. As history shows it appears that will be the reality for many players not just with USFL ties but any background. As the NFL off-season moves forward and the USFL begins it’s not out of the question to see a couple of players come back to the league. Most recently Rashard Davis, and Derrick Dillon both returned to the league after spending time with NFL teams in camp.
The USFL had an extremely successful Year One not just on the field but being utilized as an outlet for players to have a competitive venue to showcase their talent. With 57 Players earning NFL opportunities, it’s evident that 40-50 players in Season Two will granted, a chance to “ascend” to the NFL in the coming season.
As more teams continue to go through the process of futures contracts, it’s quite possible that not only could more USFL players be granted opportunities but also the USFL may be able to sign NFL-Level players for 2023. Overall, despite the uncertainty of futures deals, the fact that multiple USFL players have been offered these deals, and other players had finished the league on Active Roster, bodes well for the leagues ability to evaluate NFL-caliber talent for the future construction of their rosters.