In late August, roughly 15 players will lose their jobs when the San Francisco 49ers cut down from 90 players to 75 on the official roster. A few days later, another 22 will be cut again as the rosters are trimmed down to the official 53. Now, the 49ers have a very talented roster, and teams will want to snatch up many of the guys that do get cut. But a lot of them will be left without a job.
Some of them will be released because they've had a long career in the league and simply can't hang anymore. Some will be veterans with a few seasons in them, and just can't take that next step. The majority of them will be among the several hundred players entering the league as undrafted free agents, or are players with one or two years of experience on their fourth or fifth team still trying to catch on.
For that majority group, there are not a whole lot of options in the way of playing football. There's the CFL, there's the somewhat underrated Arena Football League and then there's ... well that's basically it. There's no farm system in place in the NFL, no developmental league or anything like that. We have college football, the NFL Draft, and then nothing.
Take any new football leagues with a big grain of salt ... the NFL has a tombstone with the names of each league that's tried to go up against it, or attempted to exist "in unity." That hasn't ever worked, and being skeptical about it ever working isn't shameful whatsoever. But there's a new league in town, and it's got some backing. On top of that, it's got an interesting premise.
It's called the Fall Experimental Football League, or the FXFL ... of course, having "XFL" in one's name was probably a poor branding decision, but I'll let it slide for now. SI.com ran a good piece on the league, talking about the founders, including Tommie Harris. It's all still a little unclear where this is going to go, but the stated goal is to provide actual game experience for these players that never see the field in the NFL.
Not every player gets a situation like an Alex Boone or a Tramaine Brock. Both of those guys fell out of the draft, but they stuck with the team due to showing early flashes. But maybe a league like this would help reveal the next Boone or Brock, no? The 49ers have plenty of players that would be eligible for this league, which will only allow players who are three years or fewer removed from college.
Just go look at the 49ers' official roster right now, and click on the "Exp." tab. That will sort by experience, and you can find there's 20 rookies on the roster, officially. Guys like Jimmie Ward and Carlos Hyde are safe, obviously, but the same can't be said for guys like Shayne Skov, Kory Faulker, Dillon Farrell, etc. All of those guys could benefit from an actual, factual developmental league. That's not what the FXFL is just yet, but that's what it hopes to be in the future.
I'm not getting my hopes up, but I'm cynical. It should be interesting, regardless.