After a historic 2021, BYU fans were expecting a relatively quiet 2022 in regards to placing former Cougs in the NFL.
The 2021 BYU class sent more players to the NFL than any other class since the 1980s. Led by no. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, the Class of 2021 had five players drafted in the 2021 NFL draft, another seven signed free agent contracts, and three more from the classes of 2019 and 2020 signed their first NFL contracts.
In total BYU sent 15 players to the NFL in 2021. Add that to the 13 who were already under contract in the league and BYU had a record total of 28 alumni under NFL contacts in 2021. With the average number of Cougs in the NFL from 2000 to 2020 at around 10 each year, 28 was certainly historic and unprecedented.
Cougar Class of 2022 (4)
2022 hasn’t been quite as exciting as last year, but a handful of former Cougs did sign new NFL contracts this spring. Allgeier was the only draftee in 2022, but three of the four other Cougars who participated in Pro Day were able to ink undrafted free agent deals.
- Tyler Allgeier was drafted by Atlanta in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL draft (no. 151 overall). On May 12th he signed a 4-year contract worth $3,993,896 with a $333,896 signing bonus and $333,896 guaranteed.
- James Empey was not drafted in the 2022 NFL draft. On May 3, 2022 Empey signed a 3-year $2,570,000 contract with the Dallas Cowboys. His contract comes with a $10,000 signing bonus and $110,000 guaranteed.
- Samson Nacua was not drafted in the 2022 NFL draft but was able to sign a 3-year $2,560,000 free agent contract on May 4, 2022 with the Indianapolis Colts.
- Neil Pau’u signed a free agent deal with Buffalo after going undrafted in the 2022 NFL draft. Details of his contract have not been disclosed.
- Uriah Leiataua competed in BYU’s Pro Day but was unable to secure a free agent deal.
In addition to the four new contracts, BYU has 13 additional players under existing contracts that are returning to the same teams they played for last season with another eight having signed contracts for new teams, and a few more that are still looking for free agent contracts.
Former Cougs with New Teams (8)
- Matt Bushman spent his rookie season with Las Vegas after going undrafted in the 2021 NFL draft. He spent most of last season on the practice squad, but he did appear in two regular season games for the Raiders. In February he signed a one-year $705,000 contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Tristen Hoge was first signed by the New York Jets after going undrafted in the 2021 NFL draft. He was waived during the 2021 pre-season but then signed to the Cleveland practice squad on September 20, 2021. On December 29, 2021 he signed a 1-year contract with Denver and was added to the Broncos practice squad.
- Kai Nacua has three years of NFL experience and started the 2021 season with San Francisco and he played three regular season games for the 49ers. After the season he was acquired by the New York Jets.
- Daniel Sorensen has eight years experience in the League and spent another productive season with the Chiefs. In 2021 played in all 16 games (with seven starts) and totaled 50 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, three quarterback hits, eight passes defended, and two interceptions (with one returned 75 yards for a touchdown). Despite his production he was waived following the season and was picked up by New Orleans, who signed him on March 25, 2022 to a one-year $1.3m deal.
- Kyle Van Noy has eight years NFL experience with the Lions, Patriots, and Dolphins. In 2021 he played in 15 games for the Patriots with seven starts, 60 tackles, four sacks, four tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, 10 passes defended, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception for a 35-yard touchdown. It wasn’t enough to get his contract renewed and he was released by the Pats. On May 5, 2022 the LA Chargers signed Van Noy to a one-year, $2.3m contract.
- Troy Warner went undrafted in the 2021 NFL draft but was signed by the LA Rams following the draft. The Rams waived Warner at the end of the preseason but he was picked up by Tampa Bay and signed to their practice squad in September. On January 24, 2022 the Buccaneers signed Warner to a 2-year $1.6m contract.
- Chris Wilcox was drafted by Tampa Bay in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft. However, he was waived by the Buccaneers during the preseason and was claimed by Indianapolis off waivers. He spent the season on the Colts practice squad and signed a one-year $705,000 contract with the Colts on January 10, 2022.
- Ty’Son Williams was thrust into the spotlight in his second year in the League as most of Baltimore’s running backs were injured prior to the regular season. Consequently, Williams got a lot of touches in the first few games and finished the season with three starts in 12 games, 34 rushes for 181 yards and one touchdown, and nine receptions for 84 yards. The Ravens signed him to a new one-year contract on March 9, 2022 but then waived him this week (May 10, 2022). So he “returned” to the same team in 2022, but apparently he’s now looking for a new team.
Former Cougs Staying Put (13)
Thirteen former Cougs are staying put (or are at least under contract) with the teams they played for last season.
Note: I always get a lot of grief when I include Bernard and Leavitt on any list of “former Cougs” as they did not complete their collegiate careers at BYU. Yes, I am aware they played for other teams (rivals even). Yes, I understand that some fans don’t claim them as alumni. I don’t care. I personally attended three different colleges (including BYU) and taught at five universities. I had a horrible experience at one of them and feel like they did me wrong. But I’m still technically an alumn of all those schools—and so are Leavitt and Bernard (end of rant).
Here’s what has happened with the thirteen Cougs who stayed put:
- Zayne Anderson went undrafted in the 2021 NFL draft but was signed to a 3-year $2.4m contract with Kansas City. He played in three games for the Chiefs in 2021, recording one tackle.
- Francis Bernard* has two years experience in the League after going undrafted in 2020. He played in eight games for Dallas in 2021, recording four tackles. He signed a two-year deal worth $1.4m with the Cowboys in October 2020.
- Brady Christensen had fives starts and played in all 15 games as a rookie for the Carolina Panthers. After getting drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft (70th overall), it’s looking like Carolina got a bargain in signing him to a three year $2.6m deal last May.
- Michael Davis started in all thirteen games for the Chargers in 2021-22. He had 49 tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Davis signed a three-year $25.2m deal in March 2021.
- Taysom Hill had eight starts last season and went 71-for-125 passing (56.8%) for 871 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also had four receptions for 52 yards, 65 rushes for 356 yards and five touchdowns, and one tackle. The Swiss army knife will not likely play much quarterback this season, but he will cash in on the 4-year, $40m contract he signed last November.
- Harvey Langi spent most of last season on injured reserve, getting just three tackles in seven games. He did a one-year deal with New England last May, and then re-signed on September 3, 2021.
- Dallin Leavitt* had one start in 15 games for Las Vegas and ended the season with 32 tackles, two passes defended, and two fumble recoveries. He signed a new 1-year $2.4m deal with the Raiders on March 15, 2022.
- Dax Milne was drafted in the seventh round and had one start in 12 games for Washington in 2021-22. He recorded nine receptions for 83 yards and one rush for another yard. His original 4-year $3.6m contract only guaranteed $77,000, so he’ll be fighting to keep his roster spot and NFL money this season.
- Sione Takitaki had eight starts in 15 games for Cleveland and recorded 44 tackles, two quarterback hits, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He is still getting paid through a deal he signed in 2019 for $3.7m over four years. He’ll be a free agent after this season.
- Khyiris Tonga was drafted by Chicago in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft. As a rookie he started in two of his 14 games and ended the season with 21 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He’s now in the second year of his 4-year deal.
- Fred Warner is worth every penny of the 5-year $95m deal he signed last July. The 49ers veteran started all 15 games in 2021-22 and ended the season with 129 tackles (no. 13 in the NFL), six tackles for loss, four passes defended, one forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries.
- Jamaal Williams had 11 starts in 12 games for Detroit in 2021-22. He rushed 140 times for 558 yards and three touchdowns, and had 25 receptions for another 148 yards. He is in the second year of his $6m contract with the Lions.
- Zach Wilson was drafted second overall in the 2021 NFL draft and while he certainly went through growing pains as a rookie, the Jets are clearly investing in him and his future with New York. Wilson ended 2021-22 going 206-for-363 passing (.567) for 2247 yards and eight touchdowns, against 11 interceptions. He also had 27 rushes for 161 yards and four touchdowns. Wilson signed a 4-year deal worth $35.2m last June.
Former Cougs still looking for a team in The League (7)
There were seven Cougs that were under contract in 2021 that are no longer under contract. Presumably all of these players are still looking for a spot in the League.
- Zac Dawe was released by the Atlanta Falcons August 30, 2021 and picked up by the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL on April 1, 2022.
- Kavika Fonua had a minicamp invite from Carolina in 2020 but never made the roster. He is currently a free agent.
- Chandon Herring went undrafted in 2021 but was able to sign a contract with Tennessee following the draft. He was waived at the end of preseason on September 7, 2021 and is currently a free agent.
- Bronson Kaufusi has five years NFL experience. He was drafted by Baltimore in the 2016 NFL draft, and he played for the Ravens from 2016 to 2017. He was then picked up by the New York Jets and played for New York from 2018 to 2020. In 2021 Green Bay signed him to a one year contract which expired in January 2022 so he is currently a free agent. Total NFL earnings: $3.1m (Spotrac)
- Corbin Kaufusi started with the 2021 season with San Francisco who waived him and re-signed him several times. He spent most of the season with the practice squad. On February 22, 2022 he was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round (no. 43 overall) of the USFL draft.
- Isaiah Kaufusi signed a contract with Indianapolis after going undrafted in the 2021 NFL draft. He was waived by the Colts on August 30, 2021 and is currently a free agent.
- Micah Simon has one year NFL experience. After going undrafted in the 2019 NFL draft Simon continued to seek opportunities during the COVID shutdown and after a great Pro Day workout with BYU in 2021 was signed March 30, 2021 by Carolina. He was waived during the preseason (August 19, 2021) and is currently a free agent.
- John Denney was signed to the New Orleans practice squad January 11, 2021 but was not added to the active roster. His contract expired January 25, 2021 and he is currently inactive. After 14 years in the NFL it looks like he is now unofficially retired.
25 Cougars Currently Under Contract
The following players have signed or played pro contracts in 2022 (contract details from Spotrac). SB = Signing Bonus; G = Guaranteed. *Cougars who transferred to other universities prior to NFL
|Name||Pos||Team||NFL Draft||Current Contract Details|
|Allgeier, Tyler||RB||Atlanta Falcons||2022, 5 (151)||Expected 3-year contract at approx.. $2.95m|
|Anderson, Zayne||LB||Kansas City Chiefs||2021, UDFA||5/2/21; 3-yr $2.4m ($10k SB, $10k G)|
|Bernard, Francis*||LB||Dallas Cowboys||2020, UDFA||10/10/20; 2-yr $1.4m|
|Bushman, Matt||TE||Kansas City||2021, UDFA||2/2/22; 1-yr $705k|
|Christensen, Brady||OL||Carolina Panthers||2021, 3 (70)||6/24/21; 4-yr $5.2m ($1.1m SB, $1.1m G)|
|Davis, Michael||CB||LA Chargers||2017, UDFA||3/15/21; 3-yr $25.2m ($6m SB, $15m G)|
|Empey, James||C||Dallas||2022, UDFA||5/3/22; 3-yr $2.6m ($10k SB, $110k G)|
|Hill, Taysom||QB||New Orleans||2017, UDFA||11/22/21; 4-yr $40m ($9m SB, $22.5m G)|
|Hoge, Tristen||OT||Denver||2021, UDFA||12/29/21; 1-year $18k|
|Langi, Harvey||LB||New England||2017, UDFA||5/10/21; 1-yr $1.2m ($75k SB, $75k G), re-signed 9/3/21|
|Leavitt, Dallin*||S||Las Vegas||2018, UDFA||3/15/22; 1-yr $2.4m|
|Milne, Dax||WR||Washington||2021, 7 (258)||5/13/21; 4-yr $3.6m ($77k SB, $77k G)|
|Nacua, Kai||S||New York Jets||2017, UDFA||2/11/21; 1-yr $850k|
|Nacua, Samson||WR||Indianapolis||2022, UDFA||5/4/22; 3-yr $2.6m|
|Pau’u, Neil||WR||Buffalo||2022, UDFA||Not disclosed|
|Sorensen, Daniel||SS||New Orleans||2014, UDFA||3/25/22; 1-yr $1.3m ($152k SB, $500k G)|
|Takitaki, Sione||LB||Cleveland Browns||2019, 4 (80)||5/24/19; 4-yr $3.7m ($961k SB, $961k G)|
|Tonga, Khyiris||DT||Chicago Bears||2021, 7 (250)||6/2/21; 4-yr $3.6m ($84k SB, $84k G)|
|Van Noy, Kyle||LB||LA Chargers||2014, 2(40)||5/5/22; 1-yr $2.3m ($750k SB, $750k G)|
|Warner, Fred||OLB||San Francisco 49ers||2018, 3 (70)||7/21/21; 5-yr $95m ($12.3m SB, $40.5m G)|
|Warner, Troy||S||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2021, UDFA||1/24/22; 2-year $1.6m|
|Wilcox, Chris||DB||Indianapolis||2021, 7 (251)||1/10/22; 1-yr $705k|
|Williams, Jamaal||RB||Detroit Lions||2017, 4 (134)||3/17/21; 2-yr $6m ($1.25m SB, $3.25m G)|
|Williams, Ty’Son||RB||Baltimore Ravens||2020, UDFA||3/9/22 1-yr $825k|
|Wilson, Zach||QB||New York Jets||2021, 1 (2)||6/29/21; 4-yr $35.2m ($22.9m SB, $35.2m G)|