It happens every time a new alternative football league sprouts up — a handful of motivated athletes seize the opportunity and parlay their offseason moment in the spotlight into an NFL contract.
We’ve seen this occur most recently with the AAF and XFL but 2022 was the USFL’s time to shine. As the inaugural season came to a close on July 4th weekend, the independent league’s player pool became free to sign elsewhere and a few standouts should receive bites.
The New York Jets roster is much more competitive than in recent years but there are still one or two areas where the depth is lacking. On the defensive side, that auxiliary void is at linebacker and an NYJ analyst suggested taking a dart throw on a recent USFL champion.
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Scooby Makes History, Could Earn Contract
During an article on Jets X-Factor, contributor Geoff Magliocchetti connected former All-American linebacker Scooby Wright III as a player that the Jets should look into. He explained:
As brilliant and hopeful as this offseason has been for the Jets, they were in such dire straits that it was guaranteed that some area of the roster would be relatively neglected when all was said and done. The linebacker spot, though energized in 2021 by the mid-season arrival of Quincy Williams, turned out to get a relatively short end of the stick. That can be partly rectified by Wright, whose pick-six in Canton sealed the [Birmingham] Stallions’ championship. Wright had opposing offenses declaring ‘Jinkies!’ all season, earning 51 tackles and three sacks. The Jets are relatively bereft of experience in the interior linebacker spot behind Williams and C.J. Mosley, but Wright, previously a unanimous All-American at Arizona, has taken on major defensive responsibilities in three different spring leagues, previously working with Arizona and DC in the AAF and XFL respectively.
Magliocchetti references a game-clinching interception this weekend but there’s more to this potential free-agent target than one historic moment — as the first-ever USFL champions.
Wright has both NFL and starting experience at middle linebacker. On most downs, the Jets run a 4-2-5 system that fields two linebackers sharing the center of the defense. It would benefit them to bring in more players that understand how to step into that position.
As of now, Jamien Sherwood, Del’Shawn Phillips and UDFA DQ Thomas are the main three options behind Mosley and Williams. The rest of the Jets’ LB core are undersized safety hybrids that have converted over to weak side (WILL) linebacker.
Keep in mind that Sherwood is also working his way back from a midseason torn Achilles in 2021. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready for Week 1 and if he is, will he be the same prospect that the Jets drafted?
These questions are enough reason to bring in some affordable insurance like Wright.
His size would also help, at 247 pounds. Fellow Jets X-Factor analyst Michael Nania recently pointed out that Gang Green’s only linebacker weighing over 230 pounds is Mosley. Next after that is Phillips at 230-even.
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Wright’s Long Football Journey
In case you were wondering where Wright has been all this time, the journey has been long and takes nothing short of true determination.
At 21 years old, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL draft. The promising Arizona linebacker then turned 22 in August and was waived in September just months after being selected.
Wright did sign to the practice squad briefly but he ended up venturing back to Arizona to play with the Cardinals before the new year. His most successful pro-level stint turned out to be in the same place he played college ball, logging 13 appearances in the desert from 2016 through 2017.
As a primary special teamer, Wright accumulated seven career NFL tackles with the Cards.
In 2018, he missed the final cut and spent a year as a free agent. The New England Patriots gave him one final opportunity the following summer, which turned into a practice squad role, but he never appeared in a regular-season game for the AFC East rival.
Over the following four offseasons, Wright tried to take advantage of every potential opening to showcase his ability once again — spending time with the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF and the DC Defenders of the XFL. His final stop was Birmingham, and it was perhaps his best performance yet.
Wright turns 28 in August and should still have plenty left in the tank.