The inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football came to a screeching halt on April 2, as league owner Tom Dundon suspended all operations due a variety of financial and economic issues. Players learned of the news in an email from the AAF that afternoon. Two days later, they were eligible to sign with NFL teams.
As has been the case around the league, the Washington Redskins have immediately taken advantage of this unexpected opportunity to bolster their roster. On Monday, the organization announced its first two AAF signings: linebacker Andrew Ankrah and guard Salesi Uhatafe.
Here’s a look at the franchise’s newest additions, their paths to joining the Redskins and how they may fit into the fold in Washington.
Salesi Uhatafe, OG, Salt Lake Stallions
Uhatafe played college football at Utah, where he appeared in 52 games (38 starts) over four seasons and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors during his senior campaign in 2017.
After going undrafted, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Uhatafe signed with the Atlanta Falcons and was there for much of the preseason there before being released. He subsequently spent time on the practice squads of the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars before finding a home with the AAF’s Salt Lake Stallions.
Uhatafe cherished his time in the AAF, as it afforded him live-game reps and a platform to showcase his abilities.
“It’s been kind of a quick transition going into this, but that was my goal starting in the league was to get back into the NFL,” Uhatafe told Redskins.com on Monday. “It went as planned, and I think it was good for me in the end -- collect some money and get some film out there.”
Signing Uhatafe gives the Redskins another option to compete at a position devastated by injuries a year ago and one currently without much depth.
Two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff will be back at right guard after suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 9, but left guard remains one of the team’s biggest question marks. Zac Kerin, Kyle Fuller and Tyler Catalina were the only guards on the team’s roster before the signing of Uhatafe, and the trio has combined to start four career games. Meanwhile, the other guards on the Redskins’ 2018 roster either signed elsewhere or are unrestricted free agents.
“I’m here just ready to work and excited to be part of a program like this,” Uhatafe said. “Just bouncing around different teams, with their [offensive line] trouble they have going around, I’m just looking forward to seeing if I can help out.”
Andrew Ankrah, LB/DL, Orlando Apollos
The Redskins have another potential pass rusher with the addition of Andrew Ankrah, who most recently played for the Orlando Apollos, and before that was a standout defender at James Madison University.
He earned first-team All-CAA honors as both a linebacker and defensive lineman over his collegiate career and was named CAA Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus FCS first-team All-American as a senior in 2017. Playing on the defensive line, he racked up 59 total tackles (15.5 for loss), eight sacks and two forced fumbles.
Ankrah attended rookie minicamps in Tennessee and Seattle after going undrafted in 2018, but his initial hopes of making the NFL fizzled out after that, resulting in him joining the Apollos of the newly formed AAF.
“The whole issue about me not being able to sign with teams was I didn’t have any preseason film, any preseason tape,” said Ankrah, who dealt with a minor hamstring injury last offseason. “So having an opportunity to play for that team and get some tape out there and show my talents and how I could play was very good for me. I look at the AAF as a great lesson."
Ankrah said playing for the first-place Apollos allowed him to display his versatility in a system similar to that of the Redskins. He’s just as comfortable getting into a three-point stance as he is standing up and rushing off the edge.
“I feel like I can be utilized in different ways to play the run and also get after the quarterback, so that’s one of the benefits I’ll bring to this team, just being able to plug different holes,” Ankrah said. “Playing outside linebacker, [defensive end] and then play special teams.”
Ankrah is a local product who grew up in Gaithersburg, Md., and attended Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County, so signing with the Redskins has brought his winding football career full circle. Now, he'll prepare to compete with a host of other NFL hopefuls for a chance to make Washington his new home.
“This could be the place where I was meant to be, and honestly my whole life I had to grind, and coming from a small school like JMU, we were overlooked and we have some great talent coming out of that school," Ankrah said. "I’ve always had to put that extra foot forward, and coming from that small school, having to prove yourself, it gives you more fuel to the fire to keep doing well. It means a lot and I’m just going to take it from here.”