Every year there are approximately 1.1 million high school football players. Of that number, roughly 853 players (0.00075%) make the NFL annually.
During all levels of college football, this sport has 73,712 participants each year of which 16,380 will become draft-ready at season’s end.
Each summer, 90 football players are signed to compete during training camp per all 32 NFL clubs.
There are various dates in which a certain amount of players are released, but on the final cut down day, each roster is then set at 53 players. That means from the beginning of training camp until the final release date, 1,184 players are suddenly out of work. 13,500 college football players never even saw an NFL practice field.
After each final 53-man roster is complete, teams then fill practice squad rosters.
In the beginning, these practice-only athletes were called “taxi squad” players. This term came from the Browns 1946 season. Head coach Paul Brown had so many good athletes that he did not want to release them so that other clubs could claim and use them. The owner of the Browns also owned a huge taxi cab business in which these extra players were hired as drivers with schedules arranged so that they could report every day for practice. When a rostered player became injured, Coach Brown had players at the ready.
When Cleveland merged into the NFL in 1950, the NFL adopted the idea to which five players could be retained. Over the decades the league has fine-tuned this group in adjustment of the number of players which was increased to 10 beginning in 2014, then a dozen players in 2020 to the standard now at 16. With the 1993 collective bargaining agreement, the “taxi squad” was now re-labeled the “practice squad.”
Which means another 512 just-released players could be re-signed to all 32 teams.
That still leaves a lot of athletes without a job. Not to mention guys that have lingered in the various indoor leagues which don’t pay much. In the end, all of these players are looking for another avenue that may become a brighter light to their skills, get some updated tape of their abilities, and hopefully get a chance to make an NFL roster one day.
The XFL made a comeback at the wrong possible time back in 2020. The spring league was hailed as a competent working entity that was well-organized which played in existing or former NFL cities on the heels of the Super Bowl as an enticement for fans to continue enjoy seeing live games or watch professional football on various networks.
But the pandemic killed the reboot season after just five weeks of games. The eight-team league has now planned on a 10-week regular season for 2023 with the XFL Championship in May.
The XFL will begin February 18 and 19 with two games each of those days broadcast on ABC, FX and ESPN.
For 2023, the reboot of the reboot is about to continue. The league had several drafts to which many former Browns are on a team’s roster. Here’s the complete list.
2020 affiliation: Dallas Renegades
S Rahim Moore
After a stellar career at UCLA, Moore was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. A former track star in the 400-meter dash, he was ranked the #2 safety in the nation coming out of high school. In 2009 and 2010, he was selected to the First Team All-American squad.
Moore started as a rookie, but the following year the coaching staff lost confidence in him against Baltimore in the playoffs when he allowed a game-tying touchdown pass go over his head with a mistimed leap. He was then benched for a less than experienced player. That led to him being signed by Houston for the 2015 season. Moore began the season starting at safety but played poorly and was benched after Week 7. He wasn’t just demoted, Moore was inactive for the final nine games. Houston released him after only one season and played in just seven games.
The Browns signed him to a one-year $1.85 million deal, he made the 53-man roster and then was released the next day as Cleveland made five waiver claims.
Moore remained out of football in 2016, then signed a reserve/futures deal with the New York Football Giants early in 2017 but was released before training camp. He then played for the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF to which he played in eight games before that league folded. With the XFL season in 2020, he inked a deal with the DC Defenders before the pandemic shut that league down. Moore was the highest-graded defensive back.
DT Glen Logan
Browns fans will remember Logan in last year’s training camp. He was expected to find a roster spot even though he was undrafted in the 2022 NFL draft.
A former four-star player in high school, Logan had 37 starts among 51 games while with LSU. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility due to COVID-19. He was on LSU’s 2019 National Championship team.
Shortly after the draft, Logan signed with Cleveland on a deal which included a $60,000 guarantee. He had a decent training camp, but was cut on August 29 when the club had to cut down to 73 players. He sat out the entire 2022 season.
2020 affiliation: New York Guardians
RB Kelvin Taylor
Originally a sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, Taylor was a former five-star recruit in high school and broke Emmitt Smith’s State of Florida career rushing yards record. He is the son of former NFL star Fred Taylor. The younger Taylor broke several University of Florida records and was timed in the 40 at 4.6.
Taylor was cut on the last cut down day and then signed to the 49ers practice squad. In late November, San Fran released him. Four days later, Seattle signed him to their practice squad but he was waived 10 days later. This went back-and-forth several times before a final release in May.
He had short stints with Kansas City and Atlanta before the Browns signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January of 2018. Four months later he was waived. He then played for the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2018 before being drafted by the Guardians for this year.
2020 affiliation: same
WR Travell Harris
Harris had an outstanding career at Washington State despite his 5’8” frame with a 40 time of 4.49. He was named All-Pac 12 three times. Despite a good college career, he went undrafted in the 2022 draft to which he went to Browns training camp. On the second to last cut down, Cleveland waived Harris to make room for OT Wyatt Miller. Several months later he was signed by the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL but failed to make their roster. Toronto would go on to win the Grey Cup.
San Antonio Brahmas
2020 affiliation: Los Angeles Wildcats
C Willie Wright
The Tulsa grad went undrafted in 2019 and was subsequently signed with the Browns. After being cut, he was signed to the practice squad where he remained the entire 2019 season. Cleveland then decided to release Wright. He had stints with four other NFL clubs and was a practice squad member with each.
2020 affiliation: same
DC/secondary - Gregg Williams
Coach Williams was interim head coach of the Browns in 2018 when Hue Jackson was finally fired. He remained a candidate for the permanent position before the club hired Kevin Stefanski. Before his head coach designation, he was Cleveland’s DC from 2017-2018.
His coaching career began at his high school alma mater in 1980 and coached at that level for eight years. From there Williams had one year at the University of Houston before being hired as the special teams coach of the Houston Oilers. In 1997 he became the DC of the Oilers before being named head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2003. He later coached at seven NFL clubs in some defensive capacity.
While with New Orleans in 2009, his defense was ranked second in the league. After the 2012 season, Williams was the center piece of a pay-for-harm scandal called “Bounty Gate” in which it was alleged that he paid players bonuses for random acts of violence against opposing players and was suspended by the league for one year.
K Matt McCrane
McCrane nailed a 52-yard field goal while in high school and was a soccer star playing on travel teams. He had numerous college offers and ended up at Kansas State. There as a junior, he set the school record for most consecutive field goals made. In his senior year he made First Team All-Big 12.
As with most kickers, he went undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft. He signed with Arizona and had a great training camp but went up against former Browns’ legendary kicker Phil Dawson and was released on the final cut down day. Many felt McCrane had won the job and that the Cardinals had simply gone with the veteran. He was signed by Oakland and then converted four extra points plus three of five field goals including the game winner in his NFL debut, but was released three weeks later.
After another stint with Arizona, Pittsburgh signed him for their final game to which he made one PAT plus 3-of-3 field goals in the win. The following May he was released. McCrane played for the XFL Guardians in 2020 and was the highest-graded kicker when the league was forced to close due to the pandemic.
The Browns inked him to their practice squad and was almost elevated to the active roster when kicker Cody Parkey was uncertain he would be able to play due to COVID-19. After being signed to a reserve/futures contract, Cleveland waived him in May. The Cardinals claimed him and placed the kicker on their practice squad before releasing him after Week 3. Later that season he ended up on Philadelphia’s practice squad.
DT Gabe Wright
The Detroit Lions drafted Wright in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft and in fact traded up to get him. On the final cut down day, the Lions released him and two days later Cleveland claimed him off waivers.
Initially he was placed on the practice squad, but he was elevated to the main roster eight days later. After being on the roster for two games, he was released. This occurred three more times during the 2016 season. The following May he was released a final time. From there he found the practice squad of four NFL clubs plus played for the Houston Roughnecks for five games during the 2020 abbreviated XFL season.
In addition, former Browns cornerback Parnell Motley was drafted by DC, but for whatever reason is not listed on the final roster.
Seattle Sea Dragons
2020 affiliation: same
WR Josh Gordon
The career of Gordon would make a pretty good movie with plot twists, success, fame, lots of money, drugs, women, more drugs, league suspensions with more drugs and more suspensions. It is actually amazing that he is still making money playing football.
The Browns took the talented receiver in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft out of Baylor. In his second season Gordon led the league in receiving yards, was named to the Pro Bowl, and was elected First Team All-Pro. From there, he played in only 11 games for Cleveland due to his substance abuse suspensions in which he missed the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
When the Browns finally had enough, he was traded to New England along with a seventh-round draft pick for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft. Gordon was on the field for 71.2% of New England’s offensive snaps before it came to an end for violating the terms of his reinstatement. They eventually released him and was claimed by Seattle where it was the same story just another team for another two seasons.
While serving yet another NFL suspension, Gordon played for the Zappers in the Fan Controlled Football League. Kansas City signed him to their practice squad and eventually cut him to which Tennessee became the next victim. They placed him on the practice squad and released him in October of 2022.
Is Gordon a superstar waiting to happen once again? Apparently not. He was taken in the sixth round by the Dragons.
WR Blake Jackson
After going undrafted in 2018 from tiny Mary Hardin-Baylor University in Texas, he signed with Calgary of the CFL but was released on the final cut down. He then played in the Spring League during summer and was offered a contract with Cleveland. He was again a final cut down recipient. The Browns then signed him to the practice squad, then elevated him to the roster for one game, and released him a total of six times in a two-year span.
St. Louis Battlehawks
2020 affiliation: same
OC Bruce Gradkowski
A former QB who played for six NFL clubs, he was drafted in Round 6 by Tampa Bay after setting numerous records at Toledo. Gradkowski was the MAC Conference co-MVP, named Two Time All-MAC Conference plus the MVP of the GMAC Bowl.
He was signed by Cleveland in 2008 and landed as the fourth string quarterback behind Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Ken Dorsey. Gradkowski started the season finale against Pittsburgh, a 31-0 loss. He was released later that winter and finished out his playing days with three other NFL teams.
His coaching career began at the high school level in Ohio as a QB coach, an interim head coach and finally a head coach before taking the St. Louis XFL position.
CB Tim Harris
Harris was drafted by San Francisco in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft. As a rookie he ended up on IR with a groin injury and the next season was cut and then signed to their practice squad before being released. He inked a one-year deal with Buffalo but was cut seven days later.
The Browns signed him to their practice squad during the 2021 season and was elevated to the roster for one game before getting released, then added to the practice squad again and later cut. He was claimed by Buffalo for a second time and found their practice squad again before being let go.
LB Willie Harvey
The Browns have had Harvey in-and-out of their roster numerous time after a very good college career at Iowa State in which he played all three linebacker positions. He went undrafted in 2019 and signed with Cleveland.
He was signed by the Browns four times, placed on the practice squad once, on the active roster twice, inked a reserve/futures contract a single time, and was cut five times.
2020 affiliation: Tampa Bay Vipers