Former Vikings QB Kyle Sloter hopes stellar play in USFL leads to bigger NFL role
Sloter, a former Vikings quarterback, is now leading the Breakers in the USFL, the spring league that was reformed this year after a 37-year hiatus
Kyle Sloter high-stepped his way into the end zone and held the ball over his head with his left hand last Saturday as he clinched a dramatic victory for the New Orleans Breakers.
Sloter, a former Vikings quarterback, is now leading the Breakers in the USFL, the spring league that was reformed this year after a 37-year hiatus. And his 2-yard run put the finishing touches on a 31-27 win over the Michigan Panthers in the first game in the league to use a best-of-three two-point conversion overtime format.
The win raised the Breakers’ record to 5-2, and Sloter hopes it raised his profile even more. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and is leading the league with 1,499 passing yards. He is third with nine TD passes. All USFL regular-season games are being played in Birmingham, Ala., and at 2 p.m. Saturday the Breakers will take on the 7-0 Birmingham Stallions in a game that that will be televised by Fox.
“I think I’m showing that I can lead a team, most importantly,” Sloter said in a phone interview. “I’m showing that I can win games, and finish in big situations. I think I’ve made a bunch of NFL throws with guys breathing down my neck.”
Sloter, 28, mentioned making NFL throws in the USFL because his goal is to return to the NFL and become an established player. Sloter was with six different NFL teams from 2017-21, though he never played in a regular-season game. He had two stints with the Vikings — from September 2017 to August 2019 and then on the active roster for one week late last season.
Sloter’s USFL contract does not permit him to have any contact with NFL teams until after the Breakers’ season ends, which would be July 3 at the latest, when the title game is played. Though Sloter doesn’t deny that the caliber of play in the USFL is a step below the NFL, he is optimistic about being in an NFL training camp in July.
“The reason I (played in the USFL) is to further my NFL career, and I hope I’ve turned some heads,” he said. “I can tell you there’s not 80 or 90 quarterbacks in the world who are better than me. I don’t think there’s 32 better than me. I know I can play (in the NFL).”
In addition to Minnesota, Sloter has had NFL stints with Denver in the preseason in 2017, on Arizona’s practice squad in 2019, with Detroit in 2019, on Chicago’s practice squad in 2020 and on Las Vegas’ practice squad in 2021.
In four preseason games with the Broncos in 2017 and with the Vikings in 2018 and 2019, Sloter put up big numbers. He completed 111 of 150 passes for 1,222 yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception. But that hasn’t been enough to get him even one snap in the regular season.
Sloter said he has faced an uphill battle since going undrafted out of Northern Colorado in 2017, and teams often haven’t been invested in him as if he were a draft pick.
“I think I’m a prototypical quarterback,” Sloter said. “I know teams are looking for first-round quarterbacks in the draft, and I’ve been sitting there. I feel like what they’re looking for, they’re describing me. I’m 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with a good arm. I can move, and have a good head on my shoulders. So I feel like I’ve got everything it takes.”
Sloter’s best shot in the NFL so far came with the Vikings, when he spent 2017 and 2018 on the active roster. He was waived at the end of the 2019 preseason when Minnesota elected to keep just two quarterbacks — starter Kirk Cousins and backup Sean Mannion.
“I think my first season (with the Vikings in 2017), they were grooming me for something,” Sloter said. “Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater were on expiring contracts. But when Kirk came (on a three-year, $84 million deal in 2018), who was a big pickup for them, I think that changed things. When you commit that much money to a guy, it was about supporting Kirk.
“Sean Mannion was (two) years my senior, and I was just a young guy (in 2019), so that’s a big gap in knowledge. Although I think my play was superior (to Mannion’s), I think that they saw in Sean the ability to help Kirk in the classroom, and that was valued more.”
Sloter got another shot with the Vikings in Week 17 last season when Mannion went on the COVID-19 reserve list and they quickly needed a quarterback who knew the system.
Sloter recalled a wild day last December when he was in Indianapolis visiting relatives for Christmas. A free agent, he was informed by his agent that San Francisco wanted to sign him to the practice squad, so he prepared for a flight there. Then he was told the Raiders wanted to sign him to the practice squad and to a futures deal after the season, so he instead got on a flight to Las Vegas.
“I was three hours into that flight to Vegas, and I got a call from my agent that the Vikings wanted to sign me to the active roster. So after I landed, I got on a red eye to Minnesota,” said Sloter, who signed on Dec. 28 and knew at the time it might just be a one-week stint.
Later that week, Cousins went on the COVID-19 list and missed the 37-10 loss at Green Bay on Jan. 2. But Mannion came off the list in time to start that game, rookie Kellen Mond was promoted to backup quarterback and Sloter was inactive. Cousins then returned, and Sloter was waived after six days with the team.
Soon, Sloter hopes to be back in the NFL, with plans to stick around for awhile this time.
“I think anybody that takes a chance on me is going to be making a great decision,” he said.
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