With the Alliance of American Football coming to a bitter and untimely end, many players have been wrongfully left to fend for themselves and frantically searching for what’s next.
Over the last 24 hours, a number of the top performers in the eight weeks of the AAF have already been signed to NFL clubs. WR Rashad Ross of the Arizona Hotshots was signed by the Carolina Panthers and former Orlando Apollos teammates CB Keith Reaser and QB Garrett Gilbert have signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, respectively.
There are still a number of players left out there who I believe deserve a good, hard look by NFL clubs, including the Chargers.
With the team having been fairly quiet in both signing free agents and bringing back their own, there are still a number of spots that could be filled by a guy who literally just stepped off a field this week.
One of those guys happens to be the Pro Football Focus Player of the Year in the AAF, S Derron Smith of the San Antonio Commanders.
Take a look back at our coverage of the AAF including our award for Player of the Year, given to San Antonio's Derron Smith.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 3, 2019
The top players who could possibly earn an NFL shot ⬇️ ⬇️ https://t.co/mY6e1THd8G pic.twitter.com/7y6SoPp7Ua
There is an unquestioned void opposite Derwin James in the back end of the Chargers defense that needs to be filled by a ball-hawking safety that can compliment James’ knack for wreaking havoc inside the box. Smith was just that type of player in the AAF.
Here is what PFF had to say about the selection of Smith for Player of the Year:
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound defensive back actually played his college ball in-state at Fresno State University from 2010-2014 where he was a three-time First Team All-Mountain West pick (2012-14). As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, Smith collected 79 tackles and six interceptions. The next season, he improved on those numbers by racking up 87 tackles and seven picks, as well as four sacks. He finished his career with 15 interceptions and 15 passes defensed.
Smith was eventually selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft where he spent the next two years on the active roster before being placed on the practice squad. He was then plucked off the practice squad by the Cleveland Browns in Novemeber of 2017 before being waived by the team in August of 2018.
Another guy that really showed out in his time with the AAF was NT Mike Purcell of the Salt Lake City Stallions.
Purcell actually has a decent amount of experience in the NFL already, having played in 25 games for the San Francisco 49ers from 2014-2016. Some of the more die-hard Niners fans may remember him from this “Big Guy” touchdown back in 2015:
49ers Mike Purcell Int vs Cowboys 2015 pic.twitter.com/w964cMS6wf— 49ers_kingdom (@49ers_Kingdom) September 6, 2015
The entire Stallions defensive line was, together, one of the most talented across the board with guys like DE Karter Shult, former Chargers DE Tenny Palepoi, and fellow DT Casey Sayles. Schult spent most of the season leading the league in sacks (7) while Sayles finished the year second in recorded pressures (24) only behind his teammate, Purcell (25). Purcell also finished with a trio of sacks.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound nose tackle went undrafted in 2013 before signing with the San Francisco 49ers. He played in the bay area for four years before being claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. He then went on to bounce around a few teams, including the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, and Kansas City Chiefs.
One last name I’ll throw out there is former Memphis Express linebacker DeMarquis Gates. One of the younger players in the AAF, Gates played collegiately at Ole Miss where he started at middle linebacker for the 2016 and ‘17 seasons.
In the team’s eight games, Gates was #1 in the AAF with 52 total tackles. He was also second in the league with eight tackles-for-loss and was tops in getting the football out with five forced fumbles.
In his final three seasons in Oxford, Gates led the team in tackles each year. He compiled 114 tackles as a senior to go along with 10 TFLs, two sacks, and three pass breakups.
After going undrafted in 2018, Gates tried out for the 49ers before being signed by the Cleveland Browns. His time with the team was short-lived as he was waived a month later.
Who are some former AAF players you guys would like to see the Chargers pick up, if any?