- Chad Johnson (+500), Pacman Jones (+700), Josh Gordon (+1000) given best odds to debut first in XFL
- Tom Brady (+50000) a long shot
- Tim Tebow (+10000) and Johnny Manziel (+1200) the only former Heisman winners listed with odds
Are you ready for some football? Again?
The 2019-20 NFL season has come and gone, and we won’t get to see the Kansas City Chiefs begin their Super Bowl defense until the next season gets underway in September. Obviously, that’s an awfully long wait.
Fortunately, the XFL is back. Vince McMahon has decided to dump $500 million into the idea of resurrecting his old side project. In case you forgot, the XFL, which does not stand for “eXtreme Football League,” was formed by McMahon back in the early-2000s. The league began play just after the end of the NFL season and featured 8 teams. The original XFL also included a number of rules that made it different from the NFL’s brand of football, including eliminating kickoffs and PATs.
The first week of XFL play drew more viewers than the NFL’s Pro Bowl, but ratings wasted little time in nosediving after that. NBC wound up pulling the plug on the league after just one season.
I’m not sure why McMahon thinks it’s going to work better this time around, but the XFL is set to begin its opening week of its resurrection season this weekend. The 8-team league will feature a 10-week regular season. 4 of the teams will begin play on Saturday, with the other 4 kicking off on Sunday. The games can be seen on FOX, ABC and ESPN.
The XFL will also afford you the chance to keep betting on football. If your Super Bowl 54 betting experience didn’t necessarily go as planned, you have 4 more games this weekend with which to try your luck. BetOnline is one of the several online sports betting sites with XFL game lines and prop bets available.
One of the props involves some familiar faces. While you may remember some of the XFL’s current crop of players from their college football days or brief stints in the NFL or AAF, the league is definitely lacking a true superstar as of now. However, there are plenty of former NFL stars out there that may be interested in continuing their playing careers. It’s tough to make it in the NFL.
BetOnline has odds on which of the following former NFLers will be the first to debut in the XFL. Let’s take a look at the odds and try to figure it out for ourselves, shall we?
Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson (+500)
Chad Johnson was one of the most productive receivers in the NFL during the 2000s. The former Cincinnati Bengal accrued at least 1,000 receiving yards in 7 of the 8 seasons between 2002 and 2009. He was a 6-time Pro Bowl selection and a 3-time First-team All-Pro. While he was a great player during his prime, Johnson is probably most remembered as the guy that literally changed his last name to “Ochocinco” later in his career in honor of his jersey No. 85.
Johnson played his final NFL season in 2011 with the New England Patriots, but he also spent training camp with the Miami Dolphins the following year. After failing to make the team, Johnson subsequently played professionally for the Montreal Alouettes in Canada and the Monterrey Fundidores in Mexico.
Johnson made headlines a couple of weeks ago when he revealed on Twitter that he would be trying out to play kicker for an XFL team. He even tweeted a video of himself kicking a 60-yard field goal.
“good from 60 yards with no cleat on the plant foot” -Pepe pic.twitter.com/aAzE2PHEp8
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) December 19, 2019
Unfortunately, Johnson wound up canceling his workout, for some reason. I still think there’s a decent chance he lands with an XFL team at some point this season, be it as a kicker or pass-catcher. The +500 odds are pretty solid for a guy that seemingly still wants to play football at some level.
Adam “Pacman” Jones (+700)
Adam “Pacman” Jones was a longtime cornerback in the NFL and a teammate of Johnson’s with the Bengals for a season. He spent most of his career in Cincinnati while enduring several high-profile off-the-field incidents. Jones was an impactful defender and return man when he was actually able to play, but he retired as a player in May of last year after 12 seasons.
Jones said at the time of his retirement that he felt “content” and wanted to spend more time with his family, including his kids. He hasn’t made any headlines since hanging up his cleats, but he’s still only 36. One would imagine he is still in good enough shape to play, if he’s interested in resuming his career.
I don’t think Jones is nearly as likely to play in the XFL as Ochocinco is, though. I think he’s only listed here because his off-field antics might fit in with the XFL’s WWE roots. However, McMahon said when the XFL relaunched that players with “any sort of criminal record” won’t be allowed to play.
I call BS on that, but I’ll still pass on Pacman at +700.
Josh Gordon (+1000)
Josh Gordon has been in the NFL since 2012, but injuries and suspensions have limited him to just 63 total games. The former Baylor Bear racked up over 1,600 receiving yards in his second pro campaign with the Cleveland Browns, but he is currently serving his fifth and, potentially, last suspension from the league. Gordon, who was playing for the Seahawks this past season, was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and drugs of abuse.
While he clearly has talent, Gordon’s habit of racking up suspensions means his NFL playing days may well be over. Gordon could potentially latch on in the XFL if he’s interested in continuing his career, though. Gordon has been suspended for smoking weed numerous times by the NFL, but the XFL says it will not be testing its players for cannabis.
That could open up a door for Gordon, who is still only 28. He would probably become the most decorated wide receiver in the XFL if he were to show interest, and I’d imagine the line would form to the left if he’s not at risk of being suspended for smoking pot. At +1000, I think Gordon makes for a fantastic betting option.
Johnny Manziel (+1200)
Hey, another former Cleveland Brown! Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy with Texas A&M, but it didn’t take long for his NFL career to go down in flames. Manziel was another player plagued by some off-the-field issues, and he wasn’t particularly effective on the field, either. Johnny Football completed 57 percent of his throws for 1,675 yards with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in a total of 14 games for the Browns between 2014 and 2015.
And then, that was it. The Browns cut Manziel in 2016, and he hasn’t played in the NFL since. NFL teams apparently decided they didn’t want to deal with the shenanigans that came with having Manziel on the roster. 14 games is an awfully short audition, but he hasn’t latched on with any of the league’s 31 other teams since. He has played brief stints in the CFL and the AAF.
Those stints did not go well.
— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) August 3, 2018
While Johnny Football would potentially bring some eyeballs to the XFL, the league’s commissioner, Oliver Luck, doesn’t seem to think it’s realistic. Luck essentially said that Manziel isn’t even good enough to hack it in the XFL. Ouch!
I don’t think it’s crazy to take a shot on Manziel at +1200. Injuries happen, and it only takes one team to make the move. Still, Luck’s comments don’t give me a whole lot of hope that we’ll see Johnny Football in the league this year.
Randy Gregory and Vontaze Burfict (+1200)
Randy Gregory is another player that has struggled with substance issues resulting in multiple NFL suspensions. Vontaze Burfict is probably the best actual football player on this entire list, yet the Raiders linebacker was suspended in October for the remainder of the season after delivering a nasty hit on a defenseless Colts player. The 12-game suspension is the longest a player has been suspended for an on-field act in NFL history.
Burfict is still only 29. While he has a history of dirty plays, he’s still under contract with the Raiders, who will be moving to Las Vegas next season. Considering he’s still a good player, I’d imagine he’ll be playing for the Raiders rather than making the jump to the XFL beforehand.
Gregory is still under contract with the Dallas Cowboys. He is still in the midst of his suspension, but the fact that the Cowboys haven’t yet released him indicates Dallas isn’t dying to let him go just yet. I don’t think either of these guys is a viable option for the XFL’s inaugural season.
Colin Kaepernick (+2000)
You know the deal with Colin Kaepernick and the NFL by now. Could the XFL be an alternative option for the exiled quarterback? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be. McMahon said that all players in the league will be required to stand for the pregame national anthem.
While I’d be surprised if Kaepernick decided to kneel for the anthem even if he did catch on with a team, this just doesn’t seem to be a logical fit for either side. Kaepernick won’t be the first player on this list to play in the XFL.
Terrell Owens (+2000) or Dez Bryant (+3300)
Terrell Owens is a lot like Ochocinco in that he has long maintained that he could still play at a high level in the NFL. We’ll never know, but Owens clearly keeps himself fit. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2017. He signed with the Saints in 2018, but he suffered a ruptured Achilles in his very first practice.
Owens and Bryant both have personalities that would endear them to the XFL crowd. Owens is now 46, though. Bryant is 31. I’m not saying a 46-year-old couldn’t make it in the XFL considering I’m pretty sure I could make it in the XFL. I think Bryant is the more likely of the two to potentially embrace the chance to prove he can still play at a high level.
If Dez signs with an XFL team and proves he can still play, the NFL could come calling. That obviously isn’t a realistic scenario for Owens, who is 15 years older. I like Bryant at +3300 quite a bit as a value option here.
Michael Vick (+5000)
As mentioned, McMahon has claimed that any player with a criminal record can’t play in the XFL. Michael Vick, as you know, spent time in jail for dogfighting. He has pretty clearly changed for the better since then, and he’s now working on a career as a broadcaster.
Vick is now 39 and seems content in his post-playing career. I can’t imagine an XFL career is in the offing, even if the league relents on their criminal record policy.
Antonio Brown (+10000)
Antonio Brown was arrested last month in the latest of a string of incidents that has plagued him since his NFL career came crashing to a halt late last summer. Brown is clearly in a pretty fragile place mentally, and the last thing he should probably be doing is playing football. It seems like he’s in legitimate need of some kind of help.
If he does wind up getting back on track, though, it’s not crazy to think that he might not be done with football. Brown is still only 31, and he’s not far removed from being the most productive receiver in the NFL. I just don’t think it’s likely that we see him playing football any time soon. I won’t write off the possibility that he eventually returns to the game, but I don’t think he’s likely to be the first player on this list to debut in the XFL.
Greg Hardy (+10000)
Criminal record? Criminal record. Greg Hardy is also faring pretty well in a mixed martial arts career, and he has given no indication that he plans to resume his football career.
Marshawn Lynch (+10000)
Marshawn Lynch came out of a brief retirement to sign with the Seahawks late last season after their other running backs got hurt. Lynch didn’t play a huge role in his limited time in his second stint in Seattle, but he is obviously good enough to play in the XFL if he wants to.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that brief spell with the Seahawks wound up being Lynch’s football swan song. He’s a passable option if you want to take a flier given the favorable +10000 odds, but not the best option overall.
Tim Tebow (+10000)
The XFL would do cartwheels if it could get Tim Tebow. Tebow has been ratings gold wherever he has gone dating back to his heyday with the Florida Gators. He is still in the midst of trying to make a professional baseball career happen, but at the age of 32 that dream is dying quickly.
Let's watch Max Scherzer strike out Tim Tebow on three pitches (via @JayWhiteSports) pic.twitter.com/oDtZiPhJxt
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) March 27, 2017
Tebow certainly makes enough money doing TV and commercials to where he doesn’t need to keep playing, but if he wants to scratch that football itch then the XFL might be the best option. I’m not sold that Tebow would be a better QB than most of the players that are already in the league, but if the XFL is interested in making headlines and getting people to buy tickets, then luring Tebow would be a good start.
Among all of the long shots, I think Tebow is your best bet at +10000. Stranger things have happened.
Tom Brady (+50000)
Look, I know Tom Brady wasn’t great last season, but come on.
What becomes of the XFL remains to be seen. I’m skeptical that the league will last beyond one full season, but there is enough money behind it to where it’s not incomprehensible to think that it could have some staying power. My favorite betting options for which player will be the first to debut in the XFL are as follows:
1. Tim Tebow (+10000)
2. Dez Bryant (+3300)
3. Josh Gordon (+1000)
4. Chad Johnson (+500)
5. Antonio Brown (+10000)