The premature demise of the Alliance of American Football marks a disappointing end to a league that offered a lot of potential But for some of the of the players let down by majority AAF owner Tom Dundon on Tuesday, there may yet be something positive to take away from the experience.
With the league office officially confirming that all AAF players were now eligible to sign contract with teams in the NFL on Thursday, it should be expected that some of the players who distinguished themselves over the league’s eight weeks of play will be getting offers from a variety of NFL teams over the coming days.
Effective immediately, all AAF players are authorized to sign with NFL Clubs.— The Alliance (@TheAAF) April 4, 2019
If the rumors are to be believed, the Pittsburgh Steelers might already have two AAF players in mind that they would like to add to their roster n 2019, with Birmingham Iron offensive lineman J.C Hassenauer and Atlanta Legends safety Tyson Graham expected to meet with the Steelers on Friday.
Steelers dipping into @TheAAF pool. The team is expected to sign center J.C. Hassenauer pending a physical, per source. Hassenauer spent time on Falcons practice squad before playing for Birmingham Iron of Alliance.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 5, 2019
They would join names like Orlando Apollos cornerback Keith Reaser, who signed a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, and Arizona Hotshots wide receiver Rashad Ross who has apparently already found a new home with the Carolina Panthers.
Deal includes $100k up front — $50K signing bonus, $25k workout bonus and $25k roster bonus, per source. https://t.co/3EEUn6cUiK— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2019
Another jump from the AAF to the NFL: WR Rashad Ross from the Arizona Hotshots to the Carolina Panthers, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2019
Options like Reaser and Ross represent two of the more productive players in the AAF over the past eight weeks, but there is still plenty of talent available. And while names like running back Trent Richardson and quarterback John Woolford are sure to attract the attention of some teams, their chances of making the roster in Pittsburgh are slim.
Focusing our attention on players who could reasonably be expected to compete for a spot on the final-53 or a place on the practice squad, these are four of our favorite options for the Steelers to consider signing in the coming days. A list of names that starts with a couple of familiar faces.
CB Jamar Summers
Signed as an undrafted free agent coming out of the University of Connecticut in 2018, Jamar Summers did not quite do enough to distinguished himself with Pittsburgh last year, but he certainly did not disgrace himself either. Signing with the Birmingham Iron gave him the chance to improve his stock and he was arguably the league’s most productive cornerback over the first few weeks of the season.
He would record 13 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended over the course of the year before a knee injury sidelined him in what turned out to be the final week of the season.
Graded by Pro Football Focus as the fourth best cornerback in the AAF with a score of 77.6, Summers saw 42.4% of the passes thrown his way caught by a receiver and allowed a passer rating of just 48.9. Set to turn 24-years-old in June, Summers has a lot of development ahead of him and could be a candidate for a practice squad role or better with Pittsburgh in 2019.
Happy game day folks! With a few hours until kickoff, I figured I’d do a quick thread on one of my favorite players in the #AAF so far.#ForgeOn CB Jamar Summers has been the best at his position. Making an impact in all phases of the game, including special teams. pic.twitter.com/pOJWvslf5w— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValenciaBF) March 2, 2019
DL Casey Sayles
Much like Summers, Casey Sayles was with the Steelers during training camp in 2018, signed to a futures contract after the 2017 season had ended. Released in the final round of cuts in September, Sayles would re-emerge with the Iron, showing enough to suggest he deserves another shot in an NFL training camp.
Still only 23-years-old, Sayles was used as a defensive end in the Iron’s 3-4 scheme and was one of the standout performers on the league’s best defense. A stat line of 12 tackles, a sack and five tackles for a loss does not do justice the effort Sayles put on display each and every week, but his 24 quarterback pressure do. A number that was good enough for second best in the AAF, as per PFF. He also finished the season ranked third at his position overall with a grade of 87.6
Casey Sayles sacks Matt Simms pic.twitter.com/naAQ0qBaUA— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 24, 2019
Memphis goes for it on 4th & 1 and get stopped! Great play by #90 Casey Sayles pic.twitter.com/ESBA4tE9Sp— 69 (@ftbeard_17) February 10, 2019
DB Kameron Kelly
Blessed with a 6-foot-2 frame and an ability to play cornerback or safety, former San Diego Fleet defensive back Kameron Kelly is another name that should have the Steelers interest this week. Converted from safety to cornerback at San Diego State, he would join the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2018, only to be released in the final round of cuts later in the year.
His four interception for the Fleet were tied for first in the league, and his nine passes defended ranked fifth overall. He also ranked fifth in passer rating allowed among cornerbacks, as per Arif Hasan of The Athletic. Kelly will not be 23-years-old until August.
Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kameron Kelly had three interceptions on Saturday, one returned for a touchdown. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, it wouldn’t surprise me if he earns a tryout from the #49ers. Like @eric_crocker said, he fits their mold.pic.twitter.com/9IR4errINe— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) March 10, 2019
LB DeMarquis Gates
The former Ole Miss linebacker did not get much of a shot with the NFL the first time around, seeing only a brief stint with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he was among the league leaders at linebacker for the AAF this season.
As per Hasan, he led the league in stops, a tackle that constitutes an offensive failure, having 10 more such plays than the next best linebacker. He also recorded the second-highest blitz rate among players at his position.
The AAF leader in tackles with 52, including 46 solo stops, Gates also recorded eight tackles for a loss, a sack, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Gates will not turn 24-years-old until March of 2020.
Let us know some of the AAF players you think the Steelers should sign in the comments section below.