NFL opt-out deadline takeaways after 67 players pull out of 2020 season during COVID-19 pandemic


On Thursday, we officially learned who was in and who was out for the 2020 NFL season. The NFL and NFLPA finalized a firm deadline of 4 p.m. ET for all players to give their teams written notice if they wanted to opt out of the season due to concerns regarding the coronavirus. Players will only have the opportunity to opt out after the deadline if “a close family member gets seriously sick with COVID or if they themselves are newly diagnosed with a high-risk condition.”

The deadline came and went without any big names such as Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes choosing to sit out, but several teams did lose important players for this upcoming season. There were a few clubs that finished Thursday unscathed, however, as the Los Angeles Chargers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers saw zero of their players submit paperwork to forgo the 2020 season. You can see the entire list of opt-outs here.

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Some teams saw more opt-outs than others, and there is plenty to examine when it comes to this unprecedented offseason event. Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from the NFL‘s opt-out period.

Patriots‘ eight-pack of opt-outs

If there was one team that was hit hard by opt-outs, it was the Patriots. A grand total of eight players opted out before the deadline: Brandon BoldenMarcus CannonPatrick ChungDont’a HightowerMatt LaCosseMarqise LeeNajee Toran and Danny Vitale. As you can see, there are plenty of notable names that will not be suiting up for New England this season, but head coach Bill Belichick is apparently OK with their decisions

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“Well, I respect all of them. I respect all of the players on our team,” he said of his players opting out. “We all have to make decisions and I talked to those guys and they explained their situations. They had to make a decision that was best for them and I totally respect and support it 100%.”

The Patriots are entering a season of transition on offense after Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa, and now they’ll have to also overcome multiple key losses on defense while also being the team dealing with the most overall opt-outs in the league.

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Chiefs lose two key offensive pieces

The reigning Super Bowl champions took former TCU offensive lineman Lucas Niang with their third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he announced on Thursday that he would forgo his rookie season due to the coronavirus. He joins starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who was the first player to opt out when the window opened. Both Duvernay-Tardif and a rookie who could have helped weather his loss give the Chiefs questions to answer on teh offensive line.

The Chiefs lost an even bigger piece last week, however, when running back Damien Williams said he would pass on playing. Williams explained that his mother was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. (The CDC lists cancer as a factor for increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.) Williams also has a wife and young daughter at home.

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Williams’ absence has big implications on the Chiefs’ offense, not to mention in fantasy football. Without Williams on the RB depth chart, first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire is likely to see his stock rise, possibly into the first round of drafts. CBS Sports’ Dave Richard, in fact, believes Edwards-Helaire compares favorably to former Chiefs standout Kareem Hunt and could be considered a top-10 PPR target, making him a potential lock for the first round of most fantasy drafts.

Bills lose Star but not star

The Bills knew early on they were losing defensive lineman Star Lotulelei to the opt-out option, but they were in danger of losing another star on the defensive side of the ball as well. Cornerback Tre’Davious White was considering opting out, and opened up about his process in making his decision on social media. He also replied to some of the blowback he received from fans, revealing that his girlfriend’s grandfather died due to COVID-19. Fortunately for the team’s hopes in 2020, he did not inform the Bills that he would opt out, and will indeed suit up for Buffalo.

The Pro Bowl corner recorded 58 combined tackles, 17 passes defensed, six interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2019, and was a big reason the Bills had one of the top defenses in the league. With Tom Brady no longer in the AFC East, the division appears to be Buffalo’s, but they will certainly need White if they want to make a postseason run.

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While Lotulelei is a big loss for Buffalo, the team has done a lot to build out their depth on the defensive line this offseason, and can still feature a quality defensive tackle rotation headlined by second-year player Ed Oliver.

Jets D again without Mosley

C.J. Mosley was arguably the biggest name to opt out of the 2020 season. The four-time Pro Bowler left the Ravens last offseason to sign with the Jets on a five-year, $85 million deal, but his first season in New York did not go smoothly.

During the season opener against the Bills, Mosley injured his groin. It was an injury that he struggled to get over, as he played in just two games and recorded nine combined tackles, two passes defensed and one interception which he returned for a touchdown before being placed on injured reserve. The Jets had hoped he would be ready to rebound in a big way during the second year of his deal, but he is passing on that chance due to the coronavirus.

Mosley’s absence will mean the Jets have to rely on the health of Avery Williamson, who is almost a year removed from a torn ACL, as the centerpiece of their defense, which also lost All-Pro safety Jamal Adams in a trade with the Seahawks. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams certainly has his work cut out for him.

Giants again dealing with questions at OL, CB

The Giants are counting on growth from young quarterback Daniel Jones in 2020 under new coach Joe Judge, but he will now have to do so without his blind-side protector. Left tackle Nate Solder, who was arguably entering a make-or-break year on a big contract, announced via social media that he’s decided to opt out of the upcoming NFL season over family health concerns.

The absence of their Plan A at left tackle means the team is relying more than expected on No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas, who will slot right in at left tackle in place of Solder. Not only will he need to hold down that spot to give Jones a chance to thrive in Year 2, but the right tackle spot now becomes a competition between players like Cameron Fleming, Nick Gates and 2020 third-round pick Matt Peart.

Solder’s decision was followed by cornerback Sam Beal’s, who announced just a week later he would be opting out as well. Beal looked to have a real shot at kicking off the season as a starter with Deandre Baker having been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, but the third-year cornerback has now decided to stay away from the team until 2021. He appeared in six games for the Giants last year, and recorded 26 tackles and one pass breakup.

With Beal and possibly Baker out of the picture for 2020, the Giants will look for answers on the corner depth chart underneath James Bradberry with a group that currently includes Grant Haley, Montre Hartage, Corey Ballentine and 2020 fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes. It’s also possible the team could use Julian Love as a slot corner option if 2020 second-round pick Xavier McKinney establishes himself as a starting-caliber safety in a hurry.

Eagles‘ receiver depth takes a hit

One of the Eagles’ main objectives this offseason was to beef up their wide receiving corps, and one of the more underrated moves they made was trading for former 49ers wideout Marquise Goodwin during the draft. The speedy wideout was going to be a nice addition to Philly’s depth out wide, but he announced last week that he decided to opt out to remain with his family in the coming months.

With Goodwin out for 2020 and oft-injured Alshon Jeffery starting the summer on the PUP list, the Eagles again find themselves behind the 8-ball at the receiver position one year after being forced to sign receivers off the street just to field a team. The good news is that the team attacked that deficiency in the draft, bringing aboard three intriguing prospects in Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins. Expect to hear two or maybe even all three of those names plenty this year.

There’s still plenty to be excited about when it comes to the Eagles’ new receivers, but the offensive would have been better served to have Goodwin be a part of this team in 2020.

Dolphins lose two wideouts

Tua Tagovailoa will have to do without two of his top wideouts in his rookie season, as both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have opted out. Hurns caught 32 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns during his first season in Miami, and inked a two-year extension with the Dolphins last November. Wilson caught 43 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown last year as well. Wilson is a great slot receiver for the Dolphins, but he has struggled with injuries over his two seasons in Miami. 

With this news, the door to start opposite of DeVante Parker is wide open for second-year wideout Preston Williams. Other players remaining on the depth chart for Miami include Gary Jennings, Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins and 2020 seventh-round pick Malcolm Perry. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Dolphins in the mix to add more help at the position ahead of Week 1.

Two competitors in the NFC North suffered hits to their defensive lines, as two star defensive tackles opted out for the 2020 NFL season.

Eddie Goldman of the Bears will pass on this season due to health concerns related to COVID-19. The 26-year-old nose tackle started 46 regular-season games over the past three years and averaged 37.7 tackles and 1.8 sacks per season. Veteran John Jenkins may get the first crack at filling Goldman’s role, but we should expect to see several players get more snaps in the rotation as a result of Goldman’s decision.

As for the Vikings, they lost Michael Pierce — who they just signed to a three-year deal this offseason. They were hoping that he could come in and replace some of the production Linval Joseph brought to Minnesota over the past few seasons. The team already made a move to help get past the Pierce decision when they traded for Raiders defensive tackle P.J. Hall — but that addition was also wiped away due to a failed physical.

So now the Vikings are once again looking for answers on the interior of the line, where they currently have a rotation that includes Jaleel Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Armon Watts and Jalyn Holmes.

Two teams out west will have to hit the field this upcoming season without their starting right tackles. While there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the Broncos entering 2020, they suffered a blow when Ja’Wuan James decided to opt out. James explained his reasoning on Twitter, saying that “it is a tough, but the right decision.” The offensive tackle said that there is just too much we don’t know about this virus and that he has a newborn son that has become his priority. Additionally, one of his family members was hospitalized with COVID-19, and he feels as though risking the health of his loved ones just isn’t enough to suit up this season.

Many expected the Broncos would address the tackle position in the draft after Garett Bolles has largely struggled since being taken in the first round in 2017, but they instead spent several premium picks adding receiving weapons for second-year quarterback Drew Lock. Now they need to come up with a plan to keep him off his backside.

The Cardinals saw starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert decide to opt out as well. He had been working his way back from an ACL tear that he suffered last September, and will take some extra time to do so. The Cardinals did select Josh Jones out of Houston with their third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, so he may be someone who can come in and start for Kyler Murray and Co. right away. While third-round picks aren’t typically players you expect to count on right away, many felt Jones would be taken in the back half of the first round, so he has the upside to outperform his draft slot considerably.

Browns OL depth takes a big hit

The Browns spent this offseason beefing up the offensive front, as they signed former Titans right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and drafted former Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills with the No. 10 overall pick. Still, this COVID-19 deadline hit the offensive line pretty hard. Drake Dorbeck, Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Malcolm Pridgeon all opted out for the Browns.

Yes, these aren’t the biggest names along the Cleveland’s offensive line, but they provided good depth and the Browns could have a problem if a couple of their starters go down with injury in 2020. Unless they find more talent to replenish the depth behind their starting five, the Browns will largely be counting on Chris Hubbard, Kendall Lamm and 2020 fifth-round pick Nick Harris as their next men up.

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