World Wrestling Entertainment boss Vince McMahon confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in the sports world when he announced in late January that he intends to bring the XFL back at some point in 2020. McMahon’s press event, which was more hype than it was anything else since it left so many questions unanswered, included an interesting item about who will and won’t be eligible to play in his new league. Essentially, McMahon claimed that individuals who have criminal records or any sort of criminal history, including those who have been cited for DUIs, would not be desired by the XFL. Most interesting about this, as of February 2018, is that McMahon has not been as stringent as it pertains to brands that make up his current WWE rosters.
It’s easy for McMahon and anybody associated with the XFL, as it exists into its infancy of its rebirth, to say the league will exclude big-name talents. Needless to say, there are at least some doubts McMahon will hold true to this promise if doing so means losing money that could be made selling tickets, jerseys and other merchandise. The XFL is going to crave talented athletes who are also draws and will attract attention from football fans and from media outlets that will need reasons to cover this minor-league product for more than a few weeks. Since we still know only minimal information about the XFL reboot at this time, we’ll take McMahon at his word and assume that these 15 NFL players will not be eligible to play in his new competition.
15 Marshawn Lynch
We begin with running back Marshawn Lynch, who would seemingly check multiple boxes that would exclude him from playing in McMahon’s new XFL. For starters, the one-time Surer Bowl Champion has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement over the years. More recently, Lynch was seen not standing for the national anthem before games.
This, apparently, will be a no-no in McMahon’s XFL, as the WWE czar claimed he doesn’t want politics involved with the new league and, thus, wants players to stand for the anthem. It’s worth noting Lynch will turn 32 years old this coming spring, and will be well past his prime by the time the XFL comes back. Still, he’d be a star for the new league if McMahon would allow him to be eligible for a roster.
14 Brian Cushing
Players such as Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing likely won’t be eligible to play in McMahon’s XFL despite having no criminal record that we are aware of. Cushing was suspended in the fall of 2010 after he allegedly violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and he earned himself a ten-game ban during the 2017 season after getting popped on a test a second time.
McMahon and the WWE have a long (alleged) association with such substances, and he and that promotion have reportedly taken numerous steps to clean things up and work to improve the safety of wrestlers. We would have to imagine he wouldn’t want the XFL linked with any players, regardless of talent, who have failed multiple tests while signed to NFL rosters.
13 Willie Snead
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead did well to earn a spot with the Cleveland Browns after going undrafted in 2014, and he eventually found a home with the New Orleans Saints in the passing game led by future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees. However, Snead picked up a three-game suspension in September 2017 after he was charged with driving while intoxicated and failing to maintain proper control of a vehicle following an incident that occurred in June of that same year.
Snead returned to the field later in the season, but he made minimal impacts throughout the fall months and the postseason. As of now, Snead would not be eligible to feature for any XFL roster unless McMahon and others become more forgiving of athletes.
12 Ben Roethlisberger
Let’s just be clear on the fact that we don’t think current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would even entertain playing for the XFL. Big Ben turns 36 years old in March, and it’s believed he is closer to retirement than he is to signing a long-term contract with any outlet. The two-time Super Bowl Champion who will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame not long after he retires would, as best as we can tell, not be eligible to play in McMahon’s XFL due to multiple assault allegations from his past.
While Roethlisberger never spent time in jail regarding any of these alleged incidents, the league felt it wise to suspend him in 2010. Would McMahon put the reputation of his XFL ahead of signing a player such as Roethlisberger? We’ll probably never know, for sure.
11 Doug Martin
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will turn 30 years old next January, meaning he could still have something left in the tank once McMahon’s XFL is ready to sign players and begin training camp sessions. Martin struggled to make a real comeback following a four-game suspension for PED use (Adderall), and he publicly announced in December 2016 that he needed to enter a rehabilitation facility to help him deal with issues.
There is, obviously, something to be said for anybody, let alone a famous athlete, working to better himself. Still, McMahon may understandably ask team owners and front offices to avoid signing such players when younger products with no questionable histories are available. We cannot envision Martin playing in the XFL in 2020.
10 Brett Favre
This one is, admittedly, somewhat humorous, but don’t pretend the idea of NFL legend Brett Favre signing with the XFL didn’t, at least, cross your mind once. After all, the “Gunslinger,” as he is affectionately known, turns 49 years old in the fall of 2018, and there is zero indication he wants to play football at any level at this point of his life.
Those who don’t understand why Favre may not be eligible to play in the XFL should remember his issues with substance abuse. There is also that story about the NFL fining Favre $50,000 In December 2010 after he supposedly failed to cooperate in an investigation about inappropriate pictures he may have sent a former employee of the New York Jets. Per the letter of the law, Favre should not be eligible to play in McMahon’s new XFL.
9 Michael Floyd
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd turns 29 years old only next November, meaning his football future could still be bright heading into the spring months. The one-time Super Bowl Champion does not have a clean resume, however, and multiple reasons exist for why McMahon may want to exclude him from the XFL a couple of years down the road.
The Arizona Cardinals cut Floyd in December 2016 following a DUI arrest, and things went from bad to worse for him in July 2017 after he was suspended for four games after he reportedly violated the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. According to guidelines suggested by Mr. McMahon, Floyd would not be welcome to play in the XFL once teams begin assembling rosters.
8 Michael Vick
By now, anybody with any real knowledge of the NFL knows at least a little about the story of quarterback Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons superstar who landed behind bars for his supposed involvement in an infamous dogfighting ring. Vick did his time, worked to return and then experienced success as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He turns 38 years old later this year, but it’s possible Vick could see the XFL as one final chance to play underneath bright stadium lights and win something of note on a football field. Despite his proven ability to rehabilitate himself and his image, we have to assume McMahon would not want any and all negative press and fan-reactions that could come from an XFL team starting Vick under center.
7 Justin Blackmon
Technically speaking, we have to refer to Justin Blackmon as a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars as of the posting of this piece since that NFL franchise still holds his rights. The once-promising wideout who had Hall-of-Fame talent in the eyes of some scouts during his college days hasn’t stepped foot on a field as an active NFL player since the 2013 season, as his career has been sunk by multiple DUI arrests and an ability to abide by league rules regarding substance abuse.
The NFL still hasn’t reinstated Blackmon following the 2017 regular season, and we’re assuming he’ll never play in that league again. McMahon probably wouldn’t want him because of his well-documented legal problems and other issues even if he has managed to get his life in order.
6 Josh Gordon
The hope here is that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has finally conquered the demons that threatened to torpedo his career, and that he will manage to remain in the NFL and reach his full potential either with the Browns or with a different franchise. If, for whatever reasons, things were to go wrong and Gordon were to find himself out of the league in 2019 or 2020, it’s assumed he would not be eligible to play in the XFL.
Gordon has had multiple run-ins with the law, and he has been suspended several times due to failing NFL drug tests. Unless McMahon experiences a change of heart about such cases, Gordon won’t be able to call the XFL home if he doesn’t make it in the NFL.
5 Chad Johnson
Who among us wouldn’t want to see Chad Johnson, formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, catching passes and performing touchdown celebration dances while wearing an XFL jersey? The fact that Johnson will turn 41 years old next January may not, on its own, prevent McMahon and others within the league from wanting Johnson to put pen to paper on a contract.
Remember, though, that the outspoken former Superstar receiver was released by the Miami Dolphins in the summer of 2012 after he was arrested on a domestic battery charge. He later spent time behind bars after he violated his probation. Johnson would be a big name, but his history of legal issues should prevent him from playing in McMahon’s XFL despite any positive press he would attract for the upstart league.
4 Adam Jones
Adam “Pacman” Jones is seemingly an ideal target for the future XFL. Jones has proven he can still go in the NFL despite turning 34 years old during the 2017 season, he can cut promos with the best of the best in the league and the defensive back even has a history working in professional wrestling. He’s everything McMahon would want; except for his well-documented legal problems.
Jones’ past miscues may be forgivable had he kept his nose clean for a decade or so, but he got himself suspended for the first game of the 2017 NFL season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge following an incident that occurred the previous January. McMahon allowing Jones to play in the XFL would be proof that his claim about certain players not being eligible was merely an empty promise.
3 Johnny Manziel
One of the first names on the minds of individuals posting on social media platforms such as Twitter while McMahon was announcing the recreation of the XFL was none other than former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. The phenom known as “Johnny Football” is one of the most exciting offensive players in college football history, but he flopped out of the NFL after two seasons with the Browns.
Manziel is reportedly working on making a comeback to pro football, and it’s possible he could perform in the Canadian Football League at some point in 2018. Manziel has gotten in the trouble multiple times since his days at Texas A&M through his first failed stint as a pro, and he earned a suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He shouldn’t be eligible to play in the XFL, but we aren’t convinced McMahon wouldn’t happily sign him because of his name.
2 Randy Gregory
It wasn’t all that long ago when Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory possessed the goods, on paper, to be worthy of a first-round pick. Then came multiple blemishes on his resume that could sink his NFL career before it truly starts and that would keep him from being eligible to play in McMahon’s XFL. Most notably, Gregory has reportedly dealt with a “problem” with marijuana use, so much so that he failed a test at the NFL Scouting Combine even before the Cowboys drafted him.
Gregory is currently ineligible to play in the NFL due to multiple failed tests, and it isn’t yet known if he will be reinstated at any point in the foreseeable future. Assuming he can’t return to the NFL, it’s likely the XFL would also exclude him in an attempt to keep its “clean” image alive and well.
1 Colin Kaepernick
We end with the most interesting case of them all. Former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick is only 30 years old, he has no lengthy criminal history and he is supposedly still interested in playing pro football. It was Kaepernick kneeling during renditions of the national anthem two seasons ago that sparked similar protests around the NFL and the sports world, and it has been suggested by more than a few individuals he is currently black-listed from playing in the league.
McMahon has close ties to President Donald Trump, who has actively spoken out against these on-the-field protests. McMahon signing Kaepernick to an XFL deal would make for front-page news, but it may alienate potential future fans. We imagine Kaepernick’s past actions would make him ineligible for the XFL.