The Massachusetts Pirates headed into this offseason gutted by outdoor football leagues. Losing 29 total players to the CFL, XFL, or USFL, although some have returned. The biggest loss this offseason might be head coach Rayshaun Kizer who is rumored to be leaving for a CIF position with the Omaha Beef. In fact, his Wikipedia page says as much.
Despite this, the team has made huge moves all offseason which makes me wonder what led to Coach K telling the Pirates “good day” and heading to his next opportunity. Also does this instantly change the status of the Beef, that won a CIF title in 2021? It really makes you wonder what happened between Coach K and the organization or if it was a mutual parting of ways.
Big Names Come On Board
Cardale Jones was somewhat of a surprise addition just a couple of weeks ago. Formerly a 4th round pick of the Buffalo Bills, Cardale bounced around in the NFL for a few years but by 2020 he opted to play in the XFL to get more film. This seemingly backfired given his relatively poor performance.
Since then NFL teams stopped sniffing around Cardale at all. Most recently Cardale was signed by the CFL’s Edmonton Elks, he didn’t last long before he was released. He then turned to the XFL hoping he would return to the league he spurned the NFL for in 2020. This time the XFL said no thank you, and Jones was left to find other options. The Pirates saw this and jumped on Jones. The question is how much does he have left in the tank?
The Pirates have seemingly released more players than they’ve signed this off-season.
Vantrel McMillian and Teo Redding were both signed by the USFL and released by the Pirates.
OL Chasz Wright
OL Larry Williams
OL Marquis Lucas
DB Corrion Ballard
K Jimmy Camacho
RB Corey Dauhpine
RB Martez Carter
DL James Hearns
DL Malik Harris
DL Harold Brantley
QB Tasleem Wilson
WR Mardy Gilyard
This left obvious holes across the trenches with 3 linemen on either side of the ball were gone. Also to date, the Pirates haven’t replaced the running backs who have left, although they have added intriguing pieces elsewhere across the roster.
Cj Riley 6’4 225 lbs
None is more intriguing than wide receiver Cj Riley. At 6 foot 4 225 pounds, Riley is a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs. Riley attended NC State but, was never really THE guy for his school. Coming out of college he declared for the 2022 NFL draft then went unselected. After sitting out the 2022 season he took an offer from the Pirates who have a big-name quarterback that many teams will be watching.
Riley should quickly become a favorite of Jones. During his collegiate career at Ohio State, he showed a love for bigger receivers with Michael Thomas one of his favorite targets. Riley is not all that different from Thomas and could emerge as a big-time playmaker for the Pirates.
Darren “Deep Threat” Carrington 6’3 205 lbs
Carrington has re-signed this off-season, after spending the 2022 season with the Pirates. Carrington attended the University of Oregon, where he made a name for himself with the Ducks. In just 33 games, Carrington caught 112 passes for 1,919 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding 2 carries for 27 yards, and 6 punt returns for 13 yards. Averaging over 17 yards per reception and 13 yards per carry.
This displayed his speed and agility at wideout. He went on to play at Utah as a graduate transfer and showed how dominant he can be, catching 70 passes for 980 yards and 6 touchdowns. He began his pro career with the Dallas Cowboys as a UDFA. He would spend time with the Toronto Argonauts as a wide receiver before landing with Massachusetts. He returns for season 3 with the Pirates after 49 receptions, 649 yards 12 touchdowns. He could be on his way to a huge season in 2023.
Isaac Zico 6’1 200 lbs
Zico also returns for the 2023 season. A Purdue alum, he had previously attended the Georgia Military College. During his 2018 season, he was a huge part of the Boilermakers’ offense. Catching 46 passes for 743 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 2022 he was third on the team in receptions, while also running the ball a few times, as well as returning kicks. He would total 41 offensive touches, and 25 kick returns for 874 yards and 8 touchdowns. Zico also had 16 tackles.
Offensive Line Rebuild
The offensive line was essentially rebuilt this offseason with three players released. The guys coming in are likely going to be the players counted on to turn this unit around.
Wilson Bell 6’4 330 lbs
Bell returns for the 2023 season after spending 2022 with the Pirates as well. Bell has the necessary size to play professional football, that has never really been the question with him. Another D1 college player from Florida State University this lineup looks more like an All-Star bowl game than it does an IFL roster. Bell was a starter at guard in his junior season but also played tackle. Has spent time with the NFL, AFL, and NAL. Was out of football for a while before returning with the Pirates. He was initially signed by the Pirates in 2020.
Justin Morgan 6’6 345 lbs
Morgan was rated the consensus top lineman in the state of New York coming out of high school. This would lead him to receive an offer from Pitt. He would begin his career redshirting as a freshman, then he would return as a sophomore but not appear in any games. Moving on to Independence Community College where he played in 6 games and rehabbed his image enough to return to a more prominent school. This time it was Stony Brook. He wouldn’t play in 2019.
By 2020 he was a starter for the school playing in all 3 games during the COVID marred 2020 campaign. In 2021 he started 11 games. This led him to the 2022 NFL draft, and later the 2023 XFL Draft. However, he went unselected. The Pirates sign the former Panther and hope to develop him into an NFL-caliber lineman.
Johncarlo Valentin 6’4 345 lbs
Valentin began his college career at the Community College level playing for Brooklyn ASA College. He then transferred to Baylor. He didn’t start immediately but it was nearly impossible for Baylor to keep him off the field for long. He was a starter by week 3 of his first season. He would redshirt in 2019 due to injury but graduate following the 2021 season. Valentin is a very capable lineman that can play guard or tackle. He could end up being one of the starters in 2023.
Jamiyus Pittman 6’3 300 lbs
Pittman is 28 years old and known for his time with the Miami Dolphins. Having played his college days at UCF he didn’t stray far from the school for his first pro experience. He bounced on and off the practice squad and active roster for the 2018-2019 seasons. Pittman is a solid defensive tackle that played well last season for the Pirates. One thing to note is during college he caught a touchdown pass. Maybe we see him involved on offense in some way or another.
Daryle Banfield 6’4 300 lbs
If you look Banfield up on LinkedIn he describes himself as a QB Terminator, and a “retired athlete”. Banfield must have left the field uttering the famous Terminator line “I’ll be back”. After spending 2019 with the Bears, he moved on to the XFL in 2020 for the DC Defenders, before signing with the Pirates. Banfield did not log any stats in 2022.
Ezekiel Rose 6’3 310 lbs
Rose has re-signed for the 2023 season as well. Having played as a rotational player in 2022 he collected 14 tackles including two for a loss of 3 yards. He is best known for his role on “Last Chance U”, but spent time in the CFL as well. The West Virginia Alum looks to make a bigger impact in 2023.
At linebacker, the Pirates have made a key move to try and solidify their run defense in 2023.
Naashon Hughes 6’4 245
Hughes is a classic thumper at linebacker in the mold of your classic backers of the NFL. That however doesn’t mean you will only catch him at linebacker. He has experience playing defensive end as well. Playing in 50 games for Texas, he collected 19.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks. He signed as a UDFA with the Green Bay Packers but didn’t latch on with the team. He would suffer through injuries in 2022, but the Pirates are banking on him returning to health in 2023.
The secondary needed help this offseason and it would appear the Pirates got the help they needed.
Max Redfield 6’2 200 lbs
Yet another D1 player playing in the IFL, the former Notre Dame player is a solid defensive back at this level. He attended training camp with the Edmonton Elks in 2022 but did not make the final roster. In 2019 he played for the AAF. Playing for the Birmingham Iron, he had 30 tackles, forcing 2 turnovers in 8 games. In 2020 Redfield was another DC Defenders player but never saw in-game action for the XFL squad. Redfield turned to his options overseas after COVID playing in Italy. He is now back home and ready to get himself noticed once again.
Momodou Mbye 6’0 185 lbs
Mbye signs with the Pirates after spending two seasons with the Green Bay Blizzard. While with the Blizzard, Mbye developed into a big-time contributor. In a season and a half, he accounted for 160 tackles, 6 for a loss, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries, and 4 tipped passes. He is a solid player to line up opposite Redfield.
Aarion Maxey-Penton 5’10 190 lbs
Maxey-Penton has returned to the Pirates for the 2023 season. In 2022 the veteran cornerback put his NFL and CFL experience on display. He currently stands tied as the team’s all-time interception leader with 12. Last season alone he had 7 interceptions, and 2 touchdown returns. He was one of the big priorities for the Pirates in the 2023 off-season.
Chris Ingram 6’0 200 lbs
Ingram was a consistent performer at cornerback for NC State as a nickel back in his freshman year, and a starter the following two years. However, a devastating knee injury caused him to miss the end of 2019, all of 2020, and a part of 2021. He would graduate after the 21 season having played in 7 games with 13 tackles, and 3 tipped passes. He showed he was healthy in 2021, but now headed into 2023 I will be interested to see how good he looks.
Chris Turner 6’2 170 lbs
Turner has been out of football for a couple of seasons. Coming out of college he was signed by the Washington Commanders. He didn’t make the team, being released. He recently tried to rekindle his career with the XFL showcases, which worked just not in the way he expected. The Pirates were the team to show interest based on his numbers, but the XFL allowed him to fall undrafted. He will be an interesting name to follow.
Josh Gable 5’10 175 lbs
Gable was brought in last season known as a trick shot specialist from his viral videos online. He would sign with the Pirates, play in one game then get offered a contract by the CFL. Gable didn’t last long up north and returned to the Pirates shortly after. The former soccer player also had a workout with his hometown Patriots in 2019.
Moving on Up
This offseason the Pirates watched as they had 29 players sign a CFL, XFL, or USFL contract this offseason. By far the tops in the league.
Barry Wesley 6’6 324 lbs
Wesley is one of the few professional football players who went to my high school. Bear Creek in Lakewood, Co. Growing up in the same town I lived in as well. He went on to attend Colorado State University before graduating in 2021 and declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft. He was invited to a minicamp with the Giants but wasn’t signed to a contract. Wesley was a four-year starter for CSU after redshirting in 2017. He was selected by the XFL in the supplemental draft.
Da’Sean Downey 6’3 245 lbs
Downey is an interesting player. In 2018 he signed with The Baltimore Ravens, before moving on to the AAF, and Calgary. In 2019 for the AAF he played in 5 games, starting one. He would put up 8 tackles, and 3.5 sacks in 8 games. With the Stamps, he added to that total. Playing in 6 games he had 4 tackles and a sack. He would go on to b Named All-IFL second team in 2022 he found himself headed back outdoors.
Deddrick Thomas 5’10 190 lbs
Deddrick Thomas led the Pirates in rushing for the 2022 season, but he is listed as a wide receiver/running back. I expect in the XFL he will be more of a receiver than a runner. He would manage 65 carries for 389 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, and 8 touchdowns, adding 18 receptions for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 10 kick returns for 167 yards. He also had 5 tackles and could end up seeing time as a gunner. This versatility is what helped him get selected by the XFL. Right now receivers that can run the ball are all the rage, and when you add in the threat of returning kicks, Thomas quickly becomes a valuable asset to an XFL roster.
Debione Renfro 6’3 200 lbs
Renfroe was also selected in this year’s XFL draft. Renfroe has the necessary size to be an intriguing prospect to the league. Last season for the Pirates he played in 5 games but collected 17 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 interception, 30 yards on the return, 3 tipped passes, and 1 fumble recovery. The Pirates were hoping to see a bigger sample size from the former Texas A&M safety. However he had most recently spent time on the Edmonton Elk’s practice squad.
Impact of the IFL/XFL Partnership
Looking across the Indoor Football League it isn’t often you find transaction lists dominated by schools like FSU, Ohio State, Texas, etc. Typically they thrive on D2, D3, and NAIA players. However, Massachusetts is setting a trend targeting former XFL players, or players eligible in the draft who wasn’t selected. Playing on this partnership to bring in top-end talent that might otherwise have never ended up in the IFL.
The Pirates tend to follow this trend trying to find the best and biggest names left on the market by the NFL, and CFL. Now with the USFL and XFL here they have two more leagues to track for players. None is more closely tied to the IFL than the XFL. This is only the beginning of a transition in the IFL by more teams seeking to stay competitive. Looking forward it will be interesting to track how many former XFL players end up on game-day rosters for IFL teams this season. More importantly, we are nearing ALT football season and this is when a lot of these questions will begin to be answered during a season, unlike anything we have ever seen before.