What is it about the NFL game that makes the players want to stay in the game for as long as they can? Is it the consistent schedule that they have of lifting, watching game film, going to practice, and then playing on Sundays, Mondays, or Thursdays? Think about it. Especially with the offensive and defensive linemen, they are constantly getting pummeled on almost any play at any given time. One hit can change the career of certain players as well. Look at a guy like Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe was supposed to be the guy in New England that would turn the fortunes around for the Patriots. One big hit in 2001 by Mo Lewis changed the whole story, preferably for the better if you are asking a Patriots fan. He was never the same again and bounced around to other teams. What is amazing is that players will even venture off into the CFL if that is their last resort to continue on with their football careers.
Some players have succeeded not only in the CFL, but other leagues as well. Players like Jim Kelly, Steve Young, and Herschel Walker were flourishing in the USFL before they dominated in the NFL. Tommy Maddox won an MVP award in his one season with the XFL in 2001. So it is clear that some of these players can enjoy the game in a different league not called the NFL. Some of them still play in the CFL as we know it today. So who is continuing to play in the CFL and who should consider going to it? Let's find out! Here are NFL castoffs still playing in the CFL and other castoffs who should give it a try.
15 Still Playing: Johnny Manziel
This has just become one of the biggest offseason stories in the CFL. It seemed Johnny Manziel was going to bide his time and wait for another NFL opportunity in order to play football, but he juse missed playing too much. After playing in the Spring League earlier this year, Manziel finally made the venture north of the border, signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who owned his CFL negotiating rights. We all know the story about Manziel. He went to Texas A&M and helped the Aggies pull off an upset in Alabama. He then went on to win the Heisman trophy and also be known as one of the most entertaining college quarterbacks to play the game. He went to the NFL and was drafted by the Browns. With a combination of underproduction and off the field issues, he was out of the league fast. Now, he seems ready for a comeback and what better way to get his name back out there by playing a season in the CFL?
Manziel seems to have the right attitude going into the CFL and he's determined to change the perception of him around the game:
Manziel's in full swing at training camp up north and unlike the NFL, he's ready to study hard:
“It felt better being here than it did while I was laying in bed last night, going over the playbook,” Manziel said recently. “When we went to the meetings yesterday, I felt super overwhelmed. I think I was starting to get a little bit too hard on myself. Cause it’s different, the routes are different, there’s a lot of different ways you can break on the routes, the footwork. The certain windows you hit and how quick they happen, it’s different. So I was feeling overwhelmed.”
14 Still Playing: Brandon Banks
The first NFL castoff that seems to have quite the name for himself in the CFL is Brandon Banks. Banks spent his first three seasons of his professional career with the Washington Redskins. He was mostly involved with the specials teams, being a part of the kick return team. He had his highs such as a 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown during the 2010 season. He also had his lows of fumbling the ball on important kickoff return possessions. He realized his NFL career was going to end and his entire football career would also be over if he didn't sign in another league.
He signed in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2013 and seems to not have regretted the decision since.
Banks had more reps at wide receiver and it has done him some good. From the 2014-2016 seasons, he caight 10 touchdown passes. He also was a CFL All-Star in 2014 and 2015. He was a CFL East All-Star from 2014-2017. Sometimes, the CFL and other leagues give the NFL castoffs chances to shine and that is exactly what Brandon Banks is continuing to do. He may not have made it with the Washington Redskins, but he has shown in the CFL what kind of player he can really be.
13 Should Try It: Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow made the decision a while ago that either he was going to be a quarterback in the NFL, or he wouldn't be an NFL player at all. Several teams offered to sign him a few years ago to play special teams, tight end, or lined up in the backfield, but Tebow was adamant and instead chose to play baseball, joining the New York Mets' farm system. A couple of years later and it doesn't seem that Tebow will be getting a call up to the big club anytime soon. Now 30 years old, there isn't much time left for Tebow to live out his dream to play QB in the NFL and odds are he'll never even receive a tryout again. However, many CFL QBs have experienced tons of success, even when starting to play in Canada in their late 20s or early 30s.
Perhaps Tebow can look at Manziel and realizes how much he misses the game. The wider field in the CFL makes it easier for a mobile QB to romp and the throwing windows aren't quite as tight. Tebow has proven he can win and there's no doubt a CFL team would sign him. The Montreal Alouettes dropped his negotiating rights in 2016, so he'd be free to sign anywhere.
12 Still Playing: Stefan Logan
For a guy that is 36 years old, Stefan Logan certainly has made his way around both the NFL and CFL on multiple occasions. He started out playing his college football at South Dakota and went undrafted in the NFL. He was signed to the Dolphins as a practice squad player in 2007 before going to the BC Lions in the CFL in 2008. He went back to the NFL as a member of the Steelers and Lions from 2009-2012. He had some decent highlights as a return specialist which included a 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown with the Lions, which set a franchise record. He resigned with the BC Lions and has been in the CFL since.
The CFL has been very kind to Stefan Logan. He spent two more seasons with the Lions before signing a contract with the Montreal Alouettes in 2015. In the CFL, he has a good combination of rushing and receiving yards, 1,913 to 816 respectively. He also has six career touchdowns. The main thing is that Logan is still playing professional football. His career may be coming to an end soon, but it definitely was good he got to experience the NFL and CFL styles of play as well.
11 Should Try It: Colin Kaepernick
In no way are we saying Colin Kapernick isn't talented enough to have a job in the NFL. It's just that at this point, it really seems unlikely Kapernick is going to get an NFL job. He's been close to signing at various points in the past year, particularly with the Ravens before the deal was nixed when his girlfriend insulted the team owner, then with the Seahawks, who backed out when Kaepernick wouldn't commit to standing for the national anthem. Well, in the CFL Kaepernick wouldn't have to worry about it, as he'd only have to listen to the Canadian national anthem before games.
The Montreal Alouettes own Kaep's negotiating rights and while they recently signed Josh Freeman, they're only in training camp and there'd still be plenty of time for Kaepernick to get up to speed and get an opportunity with the team at some point in 2018.
Alouettes GM Kavis Reed reached out to Kaepernick's camp in late 2017, but nothing came of it:
“To me, he’s a very good player. Take all the movement stuff aside. He’s a young man that we feel has a very good football IQ. He has taken a team to a championship level. The talent’s there. As a GM, you have to look at the talent. It’s incumbent on us to explore it.”
10 Still Playing: Rueben Randle
Giants fans will definitely recognize Rueben Randle's name, as will many other disappointed fantasy football owners, who once had high hopes for Randle in the Big Apple. Randle was drafted by the Giants in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft as the team hoped he would be a great no.2 option for Eli Manning behind Victor Cruz. Randle never panned out in New York after a promising career at LSU, catching 97 passes for 1,634 yards and 13 touchdowns. Following his stint in New York, Randle tried to spite the Giants by signing with division rival Philadelphia Eagles, but things didn't work out there either. He most recently signed a future/reserve contract with the Chicago Bears back in 2017, but was placed on injured reserve last August, then released in September.
Finally, Randle decided he had enough of sitting on the sidelines and signed a contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this month. Just because he played in the NFL though, doesn't mean Randle is a shoe-in to make the team, as he'll have to earn his spot in training camp like everybody else. Still, an opportunity is an opportunity. As you'll see later in the list, he has another former NFL receiver to beat out.
9 Should Try It: Robert Griffin III
This next NFL quarterback that should give the CFL a try might come as a genuine surprise to a lot of people. RGIII was one of the most prolific quarterbacks coming out of college and into the 2012 draft. He was drafted second that year by the Washington Redskins and it looked like the Redskins made the right move early on. He took the Redskins to the playoffs before he injured his LCL and his ACL and needed major surgery. After that, he was not the same. He bounced around between the Redskins and then with the Browns in 2016. He was out of football in 2017, but recently signed a one year deal with the Baltimore Ravens for this season. But, why not go to the CFL?
Griffin would easily be one of the most athletic and well-known quarterbacks to play in the league. With the Ravens, it is very unlikely he will play beyond the pre-season unless Joe Flacco goes down with an injury. Lamar Jackson's rise may also lead the Ravens to believe they have no need for RG3.
If Griffin showed glimpses of his Baylor University and rookie season in Washington days in the CFL, he could be looking at longer contracts from the NFL. It is definitely something that Robert Griffin should strongly consider going forward.
8 Still Playing: Chris Rainey
Chris Rainey was a part of the Florida Gators football team that won the 2009 BCS National Championship game. He also was a part of a Florida team that was the SEC champions in 2008. But like some of these other players mentioned before, he was converted into a special teams returner when he made it to the NFL. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. He was released by the Steelers after he was arrested on a battery charge. He then made brief stints with the Colts and the Cardinals before finally deciding to go to the CFL.
Rainey signed with the Montreal Alouettes in September of 2014 as a member of the practice squad. He then went to the BC Lions in 2015 and has been a part of the team ever since.
In 2016, he was named a CFL All-star after leading the CFL in combined yards between rushing and receiving.
Right now, he is on the final year of his two year extension that he was given in 2016. He is 30 years old and still has some football ahead of him. The NFL may not have worked out, but the CFL has Chris Rainey making his old coach Urban Meyer very proud.
7 Still Playing: Kenbrell Thompkins
The New England Patriots have a plethora of receivers who see their play get elevated thanks to playing with Tom Brady. Kenbrell Thompkins was one of the many receivers who saw his numbers reach levels not many would expect, since he was able to play with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick found ways to play to his strengths. Like we mentioned with Randle, Thompkins signed in Winnipeg recently and will be looking to earn a spot on the team's roster before they begin their season in the summer.
Thompkins began his NFL career back in 2013 as an undrafted free agent and managed to snag 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season. He would play four years in the NFL, spending some time with New England, the Oakland Raiders, then the New York Jets before the opportunities dried out.
Thompkins didn't want to spend the year holding out for an NFL chance, so he took an opportunity up north in Winnipeg:
“This would have been my second year waiting on a phone call.” Thompkins said.
“I’ve been training pretty much hard in the off-season each and every day. You’re training so much, you want to get rewarded in what you’re training for, and basically that’s what brings me here today.
6 Still Playing: Justin Medlock
Justin Medlock has had quite the career. Think of it almost as like a see-saw. He goes up in one direction and down the other direction without ever really staying on one side. He played for the Chiefs and Rams before going to the CFL and playing for the Toronto Argonauts. He then went back to the NFL for the Redskins, played in the UFL for the Omaha Nighthawks, played in the CFL again for the Argonauts, Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He went back to the NFL with the Panthers and Raiders. He then went back to the Tiger-Cats and is now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Did you get all of that?
Justin Medlock has certainly made his way around the NFL and CFL repeatedly. He was a CFL All-star in 2016 as well as being a two time CFL East All-star in 2011 and 2015. He has made 86% of his field goals while a member of the CFL which is pretty good. Medlock didn't have as close to as much opportunity in the NFL as he does now playing in the CFL. He may not have been able to make up his mind before. But now, he is probably glad he stuck with the CFL, final answer.
5 Should Try: Brandon Tate
Brandon Tate was another New England Patriots pick that didn't pan out as his career went on. He spent time with the Patriots from 2009-2010 before joining the Cincinnati Bengals from 2011-2015. Most recently, he was with the Buffalo Bills, but nothing has seemed to fit for him long term. Keep in mind, he went to the University of North Carolina and was the career record holder in combined return yards with 3,523. He is currently a free agent and looking for some place to showcase his talents at the wide receiver position. Why not go try to revitalize his college glory days in the CFL?
Tate has about 8,800 total yards between returning and receiving along with 10 total touchdowns. Tate is not on the younger side as he is 30 years old. But, he still has a lot of football left in him if he plays his cards right. He has gone through three NFL teams already and it doesn't look like his value will be going up any time soon. The former third round pick out of North Carolina better be considering the CFL seriously and make a move quick. Otherwise, he will be frantically looking for a chance to play in another league elsewhere.
4 Still Playing: Everett Golson
The name might seem very familiar to a lot of college football fans. He had a five and a half year college career with two different teams. In the first four years, he spent two seasons with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. His other two years, he redshirted and was not enrolled at the school the other year. In two seasons with the Fighting Irish, he had 54 total touchdowns with 20 interceptions. He then transferred for one season to Florida State and put up 11 touchdowns with three interceptions. He then hoped playing for two of the top college football programs in the country would help him in the NFL draft. News flash, it didn't!
In the 2016 NFL Draft, Golson went undrafted. He did attend both the Eagles and Colts training camps on a tryout basis, but was not offered a contract to either team.
He then signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2016 and has been in the CFL ever since. Will he return to his days at Notre Dame? Maybe. If he does, then he still could have a second chance at the NFL in the future.
3 Should Try: Bryce Petty
This NFL quarterback has been a backup for a few seasons now and that is not about to change, even on a new team. Bryce Petty is currently with the Miami Dolphins. He was with the New York Jets for the first part of his career. He was primarily a backup to Josh McCown. Coming out of Baylor University, Bryce Petty had a ton of upside. He was a two time Big 12 champion, along with being named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. But with his latest move and the depth chart he has to deal with, a stint in the CFL could be a good move for him.
Petty wouldn't have been playing at all with the Jets this season as McCown has returned and they Jets recently drafted Sam Darnold as their future franchise quarterback. In Miami, his is behind Ryan Tannehill if he gets healthy, and Brock Osweiler. His NFL stats are not promising as he has four career touchdown passes along with 10 interceptions. Petty is 26 years old and still has a long career ahead of him. But for it to be successful, a CFL career might be just what he needs to be the player he was at Baylor.
2 Still Playing: Trent Richardson
This next CFL player may go down as one of the biggest draft busts of all time. He came from Nick Saban's Alabama program that knows a thing or two about winning big games. This guy was fortunate enough to be a part of two championship teams. Trent Richardson had quite the career being one of the main running backs with the Crimson Tide. He was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as well as a receiver of a Unanimous All-American award in 2011. He was also a two time First Team All-SEC in 2010 and 2011. His college numbers got him selected number three overall in 2012 by the Cleveland Browns. After that, he didn't do much to keep up his high reputation.
He bounced around from the Browns, to the Colts, to the Raiders, and then to the Ravens. He had 17 career NFL touchdowns over the course of six seasons. Since then, he has joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He only has two career touchdown rushes in the CFL thus far. But with the way he played in the NFL, he is fortunate he can still play football at the CFL level. You shouldn't expect Richardson to be trying to make a career for himself much longer in any league if he can't produce now in the CFL.
1 Still Playing: Josh Freeman
This former NFL quarterback that spent a lot of time in the NFL trying to make it is now enjoying life as a CFL quarterback. As Bucs fans will remember, Josh Freeman was the 17th overall pick in 2009 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He spent eight years in the league playing for the Bucs, Giants, Dolphins, and Colts. He had 81 career touchdowns along with 68 career interceptions. He also made an appearance in the FXFL with the Brooklyn Bolts in 2015. It's safe to say that Freeman didn't pan out in the NFL. So what was his next move? It was going to the CFL of course!
He had chances to play in the CFL earlier, but chose not to. He held a tryout for the Montreal Alouettes and they liked what they saw. After all, Freeman was a quarterback with great size, plus arm strength, and good footwork as well.
He recently signed a two year deal with Montreal in January of 2018.
This could be a rebirth for the former 2009 first round pick. He can put up some big numbers in the CFL and hope for a chance at one more starting NFL job as well as one more big contract. Things could work out nicely for Josh Freeman if he plays his CFL cards right.