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USFL’s 2022 contracts will make it harder for XFL to get players in 2023

Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth tells Rich Eisen how hockey hall of famer Wayne Gretzky might have changed his mind about retiring after 16 years in the NFL.

The XFL will return in 2023. The USFL knows that, and is planning shrewdly for the competition.

Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, the USFL’s player contracts cover one year, with a one-year option. Thus, the USFL can choose to squat on any, some, or all of the players for 2023, keeping them away from the XFL (owned by The Rock) for its third inaugural season.

While the USFL may win the short-term fight for players, the XFL’s collaboration with the NFL may help that league win the broader struggle for relevance.

It’s possibly not a zero-sum game, however. With legalized gambling continuing to spread, people need things to bet on. (Or “on which to bet,” for the grammatically fastidious.) Maybe there’s room for two alternative spring leagues.

Still, as we’ve said before -- and as mentioned in Playmakers (I think . . . regardless, buy it now, people) -- why have an alternative league in the spring when Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the fall are, to borrow a phrase from Bruce Arians, wide-ass open?

Hovering over all of this is the NFL. It hasn’t re-launched a developmental league post-NFL Europa because the model hasn’t been profitable. Gambling could make it extremely profitable. And if anyone is going to be profiting from pro football at any time of the year, it’s going to be the NFL.