XFL blocks a reunion between Josh Johnson and the Lions

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The XFL won’t be competing with the NFL for fans. But the resurrected spring league will be competing with the NFL for certain players.

With Matthew Stafford still dealing with a back injury, the Lions wanted to bring back quarterback Josh Johnson. But Johnson had joined the XFL. And, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the XFL declined to release Johnson from his contract.

It’s the most obvious consequence of signing an XFL contract; the player is bound to the XFL until he’s released or his XFL’s team season ends.

The XFL’s position is buoyed by the absence of competition. If there were two spring leagues, the fact that one freely allowed players to leave for the NFL would put pressure on the other one to follow suit.

Speaking of pressure, it will be interesting to see whether the NFL tries to apply pressure to ESPN and FOX, the two XFL broadcast partners, to let players out when the XFL comes calling. A compromise would be simple; Johnson could join the Lions (or any other team) until the NFL season ends, and he’d then return to the XFL team that holds his rights. While this would potentially impact his ability to prepare for the XFL season in early February (especially if his NFL team plays deep into January), it would allow the player to make much more as an NFL player until he makes far less in the XFL.

Regardless, the NFL’s position regarding spring leagues generally is that the NFL doesn’t care about them unless and until they impact NFL teams in a negative way. The inability of the Lions to re-sign Johnson becomes the first tangible example of the XFL’s existence inconveniencing the NFL.

16 responses to “XFL blocks a reunion between Josh Johnson and the Lions

  1. Not that I care, but this is really stupid. Players are joining the XFL in order to audition for the NFL. So why not make it so there’s no downside to signing?

  2. The Lions can just move on to some other backup QB that couldn’t land on a team out of training camp. It isn’t like Josh Johnson was going to save their season somehow.

  3. Life is about choices. If you choose to sign a contract, don’t be surprised when asked to fulfill it.

    The Lions knew he was entering the XFL. They chose to not offer him a contract a few weeks ago. They aren’t going anywhere so they’ll be fine with what they have in place. If he does well, they can choose to sign him after the XFL season is over.

  4. And this will keep NFL talent from ever playing in the XFL. If you’re a borderline roster player, why would you eliminate yourself from your NFL dream by signing with the XFL. what a dumb move by the XFL. All this tells me is that the XFL will be filled with scrubs. No thanks! I’ll watch spring baseball and basketball instead!

  5. Lions are 3 wins, 7 losses, and 1 tie… They’re not going anywhere.
    At this point, Driskell can finish the season and if you want to shake things up, give the 3rd stringer, David Blough a try.

  6. Don’t you think the NFL would do exactly the same thing? I get the NFL is a higher caliber talent league, but after all – the two leagues are not partners.

  7. I like Josh Johnson…but the guy has been on like 7 teams in the NFL so he knows he’s just a one-and-done player now in the NFL league. Enjoy starting for a whole season in the XFL and leading a team to a winning season. Have fun dude. Looking forward to watching you play.

  8. This is the problem with current NFL roster sizes.

    You can have 63 under contract (53 active and 10 on the practice squad), but any NFL team needs another 10 or 20 to finish the season. They are relying on a few hundred guys to remain in shape, ready to play with a few days practice even though these guys aren’t under contract or getting paid.

  9. Keep telling yourself this league will work when they keep making things worse for the players.

    This is just another reason you don’t start the league in February. You are know going to restrict players from their ultimate goal. This is as bad as making your footballs black and playing at night.

  10. Josh Johnson will make more money in the NFL if he leads an XFL team to a strong showing.

    If he signed with the Lions, he might, if he’s extremely lucky, play in a game. Nothing that will bolster his stock long term. The XFL season will give him a chance to get into a groove, build some chemistry with some wideouts and really show if he has the skills to play pro ball at the highest level again.

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