Ben DiNucci and Steven Montez will be the Seattle Sea Dragons quarterbacks for the 2023 season, XFL senior vice president of player personnel Doug Whaley confirmed to The Seattle Times on Tuesday, before the league’s quarterback selection show. 

DiNucci and Montez will battle for the starting job in what Seattle head coach Jim Haslett has hinted will be a pass-heavy attack under offensive coordinator June Jones. 

We’re very excited to have Ben and Steven join the Sea Dragons,” said Haslett in a news release. “I’ve been open about our desire to pass the ball and these guys bring big arms to the table.

“Ben is an athletic, play-maker with NFL experience. Steven is also mobile and able to throw from anywhere on the field. Both of these players have all the tools to succeed in a June Jones offense.”

Seattle’s XFL team has a new name but familiar roots

DiNucci started his college football career at Pitt before transferring to James Madison University for his redshirt junior year. He started 29 games for JMU over his two seasons with the program, and finished in the program’s all-time top 10 in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, and total offense.


As a senior, DiNucci was named an AFCA First Team All-American and the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Year. 

DiNucci played in three games his rookie year after getting picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft, with one start. He finished with 219 passing yards and a 53.5% completion rate with zero interceptions. 

DiNucci spent the 2021 season on the Cowboys practice squad, and was released on Aug. 28, 2022. 

“He’s at that stage in his life when it’s a perfect place for an XFL quarterback,” Whaley said. “He’s played in the league, he’s been out of the league, and he’s been on a practice squad, but he hasn’t really had the chance to show over an extended period of time that he can lead a team. … The targeted guys that we are looking at are those guys that ‘hey, I need to find out, not only for myself, but also show everybody else, that I can be more than a guy who just reads cards on a practice squad.’”

It’s been a weird past few months for the Dallas-based DiNucci without an NFL job, who admits that it made him a bit angry to watch football from his couch at home. DiNucci knows that he will be allowed to “sling it around” in Jones’ explosive offense, and hopes to use his time in the XFL as a springboard to get him another NFL shot down the road. 

“I’ve got a great arm, and I’m accurate,” DiNucci said. “The quarterback position is changing in the NFL nowadays. It’s not the pocket passes anymore, and guys have got to be able to extend and make some plays. I kind of pride myself on putting the ball where it needs to be. I feel I can make every throw on the field, and when I need to extend plays, I use my athleticism to get out of the pocket. … That’s stuff I’m going to be bringing to the table, and hopefully it’s a good product.”


The other player competing for the job will be Montez, who played college ball at the University of Colorado. Montez passed for 9,710 total yards and 63 touchdowns over four seasons with the Buffaloes before signing with the Washington Commanders in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. 

Montez spent most of the 2020 season on the Washington practice squad, and was released before the 2021 season. Montez spent the 2021 season on the Detroit Lions practice squad, before getting waived this past May. 

At 6-foot-5, Montez has the size that many teams desire at the quarterback position, and Whaley thinks that Montez’s impressive throwing arm, athleticism, and size will make him a valuable player in the XFL. 

“He just hasn’t been in a system to really exploit his talents,” Whaley said. “So he’s the type of guy that hasn’t gotten that look or that chance. Now he can come to the XFL, battle it out with Ben, and best man win. If he wins, he can show ‘Hey, what you saw in college, you can see how I’ve developed and I can move the needle from just being a physical prospect to being a positional prospect with the quarterback acumen that I gained by playing in the XFL.’”

Under the XFL’s system, each team was told to go out and evaluate every quarterback not currently under contract and come back with a list of their top two to three favorites, according to Whaley. The league then assigned quarterbacks to each team based on those evaluations. 

“Steven is a big kid who is pretty athletic, can make all the throws,” Haslett said. “Good looking kid, (and) smart. So I think it’s a heck of a twosome. I think it’s the best two guys in the league, and so I’m excited about working with them.”


With Seattle employing the NFL-experienced DiNucci along with the talented-but-unproven Montez, Whaley sees a situation where the Sea Dragons can’t go wrong.

“To me, it seems like we have a veteran guy that can plug and play but you’ve also got a young guy with some ability, let’s see where it goes and throw those two in the mix,” Whaley said. “Worst case you have a starter that beats another guy out, and you’ve got a competent backup. So we just felt like they felt really good about what those two brought to the team and to the system.”

The quarterback selection show kicks off the league’s three-day Las Vegas draft event. On Wednesday, the draft will be broken into four different positional groupings in which each team will draft 11 players. The first grouping will be offensive skill positions like wide receiver, running back, tight end and full back. That will be followed by defensive backs, the defensive front line, and then offensive line. 

On Day Two, teams will draft kickers, punters, and long snappers before the draft shifts to open rounds, where teams can select a player at any position. 

The Sea Dragons will have the sixth overall pick in the first round, and the draft will be done in a “snake style,” meaning the order will reverse each round.

XFL training camps will begin Jan. 8, and the season will kick off on Feb. 18.