Most notable former NFL, college standouts for inaugural UFL season

Spring is upon us and with it comes the opening of another professional football league. The UFL, formed by the merger of the USFL and XFL, will officially kick off its 10-week season Saturday.

As we’ve seen in the various alternative football leagues over the past few years, the UFL’s eight rosters feature plenty of former NFL and collegiate standouts. With that in mind, here are the most notable players participating in the 2024 UFL season who have NFL ties and/or were stars at the FBS level

Quarterback A.J. McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks 

Perhaps the most recognizable name on this list, McCarron was a star at Alabama, where he won three national championships. He didn’t have nearly the same success in the NFL, bouncing around among the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans across his first six seasons. Last spring, McCarron gave the XFL a shot and had outstanding results with the St. Louis Battlehawks.

During the 2023 XFL regular season, McCarron threw for the most yards (420) and touchdowns (six) in a game in league history and broke the season record for TD passes (24). That success led to McCarron signing another contract with Cincinnati. He played in two games, completing four passes for 19 yards with the Bengals before asking to be released so he could return to St. Louis.

Linebacker Vic Beasley, Arlington Renegades

Despite playing seven NFL seasons, Beasley – a former first-round pick out of Clemson – was mostly a one-year wonder in the league. Beasley finished his NFL career with 37.5 sacks, but 15.5 of them came during his dominant 2016 season when he led the league in that category. That season, Beasley also forced an NFL-high six fumbles, earned his only Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections and helped lead the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance.

Last season, Beasley got his first experience in spring professional football after the Vegas Vipers selected him first overall in the 2023 XFL Defensive Front Seven Draft. Over his seven games with the Vipers, Beasley collected 15 tackles and 0.5 sacks.

Linebacker Reuben Foster, Houston Roughnecks

Foster, a national champion at Alabama and former first-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers, appeared in only 16 games in the NFL due to injuries and legal issues. The 29-year-old returned to professional football last season, playing for the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers. In eight games with Pittsburgh, Foster had 53 tackles, three for loss, one interception and a half-sack, helping the team reach the USFL Championship Game, where it lost to the Birmingham Stallions.

Punter Marquette King, Arlington Renegades 

King was one of the better punters in the NFL during his Oakland Raiders tenure. In 2014, he led the league in punting yards (4,930) and thanks to his stellar play during the 2016 season, King earned the only second-team All-Pro selection of his career. However, King became more known for his on-field celebrations and dance moves following his punts, which resulted in him receiving multiple unsportsmanlike penalties

The Denver Broncos signed King to a three-year deal in 2018, but the punter suffered a thigh injury four games into the subsequent season, leading to his release. Although he hasn’t played in the NFL since, King has had successful stints playing spring professional football. As a member of the Battlehawks in 2020, King led the XFL in punting yards, and during the 2023 season, he won the XFL championship with Arlington.

Safety D. J. Swearinger, DC Defenders

Swearinger is back for his second season with the Defenders after he had 15 tackles and a pick-six in three games in 2023. The South Carolina product was an impactful contributor for several teams during his NFL career, starting in 73 of the 110 games he played.

At 32, it’s unlikely Swearinger will get another opportunity to play in the NFL, but he’ll surely provide a valuable veteran presence for the Defenders.

Cornerback Deandre Baker, DC Defenders

Arguably the New York Giants’ biggest draft bust in recent memory, the 30th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft returns to professional football for the first time since 2021. Baker struggled as a rookie but was released before his second season after he was charged with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm at a dice game in Florida.

All charges against Baker were dropped and he went on to spend parts of two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, making 10 appearances in that span.

Quarterback Matt Corral, Birmingham Stallions

The Carolina Panthers selected Corral in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft after having a solid career at Ole Miss, but he never appeared in a game.

Corral spent his rookie season on injured reserve and was cut by Carolina entering his second year. While the New England Patriots subsequently signed him, Corral left the team without warning shortly thereafter. It was later reported that New England would re-sign Corral to join its practice squad until a “change of plans” prevented that from happening.

It remains to be seen whether Corral will play in Saturday’s opener. Birmingham has yet to announce a starting quarterback, with the presumed finalists being Corral and two-time USFL champion J’Mar Smith.

Safety Jalen “Teez” Tabor, San Antonio Brahmas

A two-time first-team All-SEC selection at Florida, Tabor failed to live up to expectations in the NFL after the Lions selected him in the second round in 2017. Initially drafted as a cornerback, Tabor transitioned to safety, though he didn’t particularly excel in that role either.

Tabor made one appearance for the Seattle Seahawks in 2023, but he’ll need to make a strong impression this spring to resume an NFL career


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