Former University of Tennessee defensive end Corey Vereen has withdrawn from the XFL after being drafted by the Los Angeles Wildcats, citing a far lower than expected salary.
While assigned quarterbacks will be paid up to nearly $500,000 per season in the start-up spring season American football league, due to kick off this February, all other players earn far less.
Players will gain a maximum base salary of $27,040 per season while there are additional bonuses for draftees who are active on game-day rosters and play on the winning team. A player who is active for all 10 games and is on a team that goes 5-5 would earn $55,000 for the season.
Vereen told ESPN he passed on offers from the Canadian Football League based on a presumption of higher salaries in the XFL. It is believed that the rapid demise of the Alliance of American Football led to the XFL reducing its salaries to players due to the absence of any competition.
Prior to the AAF’s folding, each player there signed a non-guaranteed three-year contract worth a total of $250,000 ($70,000 in 2019; $80,000 in 2020; $100,000 in 2021), with the potential to earn more through a series of bonuses.
“How are you going to sit here and get all these people together and try to get the best talent for your league and pay them $27,000?” Vereen told ESPN. “I love the game. But I’m not going to be taken advantage of at the end of the day. I have an engineering degree. I’m a software developer. My current job makes more than that. I’m not doing that, unfortunately. It looked like a great opportunity.”
Vereen, who played for the Memphis Express in the AAF, added that other players who had been drafted were also reconsidering their futures in the XFL.
An XFL spokesperson told USA Today: “We provided an opportunity to play pro football in front of a national audience and only wish him well.”
The XFL is backed by WWE owner Vince McMahon, who has invested nearly $400m in the venture. The first version of the XFL, representing a joint project between WWE and NBC, lasted just one season in 2001.