Written By: Roy Countryman @PreacherBoyRoy
With the unfortunate ending to the reimagined XFL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a host of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents at 9:00 AM today due to a negotiated deal between the XFL and NFL to allow them out of their contracts. These players could be key under the radar signings to add to the backend of the offseason roster with the hopes of them sticking like Kameron Kelly, a former developmental player who got 14 games experience and a start with the Steelers last season. Here a few names to keep an eye on that should intrigue the decision-makers.
Kenny Robinson: S, St. Louis Battlehawks (Age: 21)
Ineligible to Sign as UFA: Eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft
There is one player that I am sure will pique Kevin Colbert’s interest, and that is none other than the local high school star Robinson who suited up for West Virginia before being ruled ineligible prior to this season. Rather than trying to pursue a transfer, he decided to turn pro with the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks in part to care for his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer. During his time in St. Louis, he flashed his highly valuable skills as a deep third safety, tying for second in the league with 2 INTs along with filling downhill hard as a run defender. He has a real chance of coming off the board in the late-round three/early-round four range. His skill set would match up nicely for what the Steelers need for a talented #3 safety that can develop and play a key role on special teams.
Dexter McCoil: LB/S, St. Louis Battlehawks (Age: 28)
McCoil has had quite the trek trying to make it onto an NFL roster. Undrafted out of Tulsa back in 2013, he had to take his talents north of the border to the CFL. During his time there he flourished by winning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie Award after tying for the league lead in INTs with six that season. He then followed it up by winning the Grey Cup (CFL equivalent of the Lombardi) the next season. All that success warranted a look from the NFL and he bounced around the league with the Chargers and the 49ers for two seasons until finally finding himself in the XFL. He is a player who has all the requisite athleticism you could want on the defensive side of the ball and he stands at an imposing 6’4”, which makes him a menace to throwing lanes. His majority of experience came at safety, but it wasn’t until he played in the CFL that they let him transition to an LB role which really seems to fit his skillset and playing demeanor. With the Battlehawks, he was one of the league leaders in tackles and was a noticeable chess piece for their defense on third downs as a coverage backer who was able to impact throwing lanes with his length. He would be an ideal low cost fit to bring onto the roster to see if he could pick up the slack where Mark Barron played last season.
Casey Sayles: DL, St. Louis Battlehawks (Age: 24)
If this name sounds familiar to Steelers fans, it should as Sayles was one of the final cuts last season coming out of camp. Furthermore, he has had two previous stints with the team, so you know that he possesses a skill set that they covet. Sayles is coming off a sterling season with the Battlehawks where he established himself as one of the best run-stuffing DL in the league. However, don’t let that fool you though, as he is not just a one-trick pony; he showed the motor and hand usage to push the pocket and get into the face of QBs with a high rate of success and also possesses an impressive first step quickness that can put OL on skates. He would be an ideal player to sign with the intent of adding quality competition to the likes of Daniel McCullers and Henry Mondeaux for the #6 DL roster spot.
Jordan Ta’Amu: QB, St. Louis Battlehawks (Age: 22)
Everyone that watched the XFL would say the best QB in the league was the Houston Roughnecks’ P.J. Walker, but don’t overlook Ta’Amu who arguably was just as impressive as the QB of an offense that didn’t always take advantage of his skills due to a commitment to their running game, which was the best in the league. Battlehawks’ head coach Jonathan Hayes is a former Steelers TE and AFC North positional coach with the Bengals during Marvin Lewis’ tenure, and he was developing his young QB nicely by not overly relying on him and forcing him to do things he was uncomfortable with. What he does well is throwing the ball down the field, which you can trace back to his days at Ole Miss throwing bombs to the likes of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and 2020 draftee Van Jefferson. He has a cannon for an arm but needs to show better consistency on his touch and accuracy to all phases of the field. He has terrific athleticism though that can be utilized on RPOs and has to be accounted for when the play breaks down. He would be a great lottery ticket to add to the QB room where he could fight it out with Duck Hodges, Paxton Lynch, and J.T. Barrett for the #3 QB job.
Mekale McKay: WR, New York Guardians (Age: 26)
McKay was just hitting his stride when the season was put on hold. He was initially slowed with an ankle injury in training camp, and then inconsistent play calling and QB play that was just starting to get settled. He is an imposing target standing at 6’4”, but what is most impressive is his body control and ability to high point the ball over defenders, which is a spot that the Steelers WR corps are sorely lacking in. He doesn’t have the best speed, but he uses long strides to glide past defenders downfield where he can use his physicality to his advantage. He was a standout in another former developmental league (AAF) and has bounced on and off practice squads and offseason rosters from a number of teams, so it would be nice to see him get an opportunity here as a big-bodied outside presence.
Jamar Summers: CB, New York Guardians (Age: 24)
Another player that Steelers fans should be familiar with is Summers, who signed on as a UDFA after the 2018 draft but ultimately didn’t make the final cut. He has since played in the now-defunct AAF for the Birmingham Iron and then bounced around with the Dolphins and Lions until ultimately finding himself in another developmental league with the NY Guardians. Every time he plays, fans and coaches alike can see why teams fall in love with him as he plays with a fire and desire that is infectious and doesn’t shy away from any challenge. He has terrific instincts and can be a pest at the catch point. Also, he isn’t afraid to mix it up in run support and throw his body around to secure the tackle. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Cam Sutton where he is a smart player who can wear a number of hats for a team and be valuable to the roster flexibility, which could be why Colbert and Co. look to sign him.
Donald Parham: TE, Dallas Renegades (Age: 22)
Parham was one of the biggest mismatches the XFL had seen early on in the season as he used his enormous build (6’8”) and speed to stretch the field vertically. He made a number of highlight-reel catches from former Steelers QB Landry Jones, and even with the addition of Eric Ebron to the TE room, the front office should think of adding him to the equation for the #3 TE roster spot against Zach Gentry. The one area the former Stetson Hatter needs refinement is in the run blocking department as he’s just so tall and long that he struggles with leverage, but he shows the necessary effort and willingness, so those drawbacks can be improved upon with coaching.