34 former NY Jets who are part of the XFL in 2023

NY Jets, Anthony Becht
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Former NY Jets on the Houston Roughnecks

Deontay Burnett, WR

Although his stint with New York wasn't a long one, most fans of the Jets have a soft spot for Deontay Burnett. The former All-Pac 12 receiver seemed like an ideal fit, reuniting with his USC quarterback Sam Darnold. And for a brief moment in time late in the 2018 season, it seemed like maybe the Jets hit on something by adding Burnett.

Burnett played in five games with the Jets in 2018 and even garnered one start against the Chicago Bears, where he finished with a team-high of 61 receiving yards on four receptions. But for whatever reason, Burnett was seldom used afterward.

Nearly a year later, the Jets would let him go right before the start of the 2019 season. Burnett would then play three seasons with the Eagles and Niners, but he hasn't been able to get back to where he was when he showed a spark with the Jets. Maybe the breakthrough finally comes for Burnett as a starter in Houston with the XFL.

Tim Ward, DE/OLB

Tim Ward falls under the category of "oh yeah, whatever happened to that guy." Ward has a high-priority waiver claim by Jets general manager Joe Douglas at final cuts in 2021.

He had been with the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons, winning a Super Bowl with them before Kansas City let the edge rusher go before the season.

The Jets claimed Ward, and he spent the entire 2021 season with green and white. The 6-foot-6 lanky edge rusher played 11 games for New York but was sparingly used rushing the passer. Ward finished with 12 tackles and two passes defended.

In August of 2022, the Jets moved on from Ward. He would spend the 2022 NFL season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad. Something tells me that in Wade Phillips's 3-4 defense in Houston, Ward will parlay that into another shot in the NFL.

John Daka, DE/OLB

The legendary Randy Savage once famously told Ricky Steamboat that he would have a "cup of coffee" in the big time (no apologies for the dated reference). That's exactly what former James Madison standout John Daka had with the Jets in 2021.

The team signed him to a futures deal at the end of the 2020 season but let him go not soon after Robert Saleh and his staff arrived at Florham Park.

Brandon Silvers, QB

From one cup of coffee to the next. The Roughnecks' Week 1 starter's only NFL stint came after Brandon Silvers' first foray with spring football in the AAF.

The signal-caller who beat out Zach Mettenberger, Johnny Manziel, and anti-Jets legend Christian Hackenberg with the Memphis Express got a one-month cameo with the New York Jets in 2019.

Closing Thoughts

If you made it this far into this article, thank you. It means that you have an open mind about this unique topic. Or maybe it's just a morbid curiosity about Jets players from the past who have faded away seemingly into obscurity.

It's easy to be dismissive of pro football leagues like the XFL. After all, nothing compares to the National Football League. However, over two dozen XFL players from three years ago ended the 2022 season on NFL rosters.

Most casual football fans know about Taylor Heinicke or P.J. Walker's story. However, there are others like Elijah Campbell, who was the XFL's highest-graded DB by Pro Football Focus in 2020, and he started with New York before ending up on Miami's 53-player roster the last two years.

Austin Walter, now a Raider, had a memorable moment with the Jets, scoring a touchdown against his hometown team, Houston, in 2021 — a tearful moment he dedicated to his father.

Then there's Josh Johnson who simply won't go away no matter how many teams have shown him the door. Back in 2021, Johnson did the unthinkable for the Jets, coming off the bench, to throw for over 300 yards in relief against the Indianapolis Colts. He was the only quarterback to accomplish that feat for the Jets since Joe Namath.

Stories like these are not sexy, and often players, and careers, like the one Josh Johnson has had, are ridiculed. When in reality, the fact that he has made it this long in the NFL through persistence is a triumph. That's what the XFL can represent for these players.

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And who knows, maybe one day a major star will emerge from the XFL to play a significant role for the Jets. A longshot, perhaps, but a shot at it exists nonetheless again.