Key NFL Players That Opted Out of the Season and the Effects on Their Teams

Dec 21, 2019; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; The New England Patriots defense led by defensive end John Simon (55) and strong safety Patrick Chung (23) gang tackle Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) during the second half at Gillette Stadium

The NFL deadline for players to opt-out of the 2020 season has passed. The cutoff was August 6th at 4 PM EST. Many big-name players chose their family and personal health over football. The impact on their team will undoubtedly be drastic. Here are key NFL players that opted out.

*Note: Players considered “high risk” will receive an accrued season and a $350,000 stipend. Players deemed “low to no risk” will receive a $150,000 stipend. Here is a list of high-risk conditions.

New England Patriots: Marcus Cannon (OT), Patrick Chung (SS), and Dont’a Hightower (LB)

The Patriots led the league in players opting out with eight. The three notables were Cannon, Chung, and Hightower, all starters. Cannon is the only one out of the three that will receive the high-risk stipend. Cannon survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being drafted in 2011. Hightower is considered low risk as he chose to opt-out after his fiancee gave birth to a son in mid-July. Chung opted out as his wife is pregnant and has a 9-year-old with asthma. 

All three opt-outs are considerable blows to the Patriots. Cannon has been the protector of the team’s quarterback’s right side on the line for nine years. He is only giving up about 2.5 sacks every season on average.

Hightower and Chung are significant losses for a Patriots defense that enjoyed a lot of success this past season. Hightower was second on the team for solo tackles and QB hits. He was the primary signal-caller on a defense that lost two former starting linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to free agency.

Chung started 12 games at strong safety, and the Patriots were one of the top passing defenses in the league. The opt-outs, along with the departure of legendary quarterback Tom Brady, served a blow to the Patriots.

Kansas City Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (OG), Damien Willaims (RB), Lucas Niang (OT)

Another team that endured a significant amount of opt-outs was the Chiefs. The defending champs will begin their title defense without a few key players from last year’s Super Bowl.

Duvernay Tardiff was the first player in the league to opt-out of the season. He is a recent medical school graduate from McGill University in Canada. During the offseason, he had been assisting as an orderly in a long-term care facility in Montreal during the pandemic.

Duvernay-Tardif released a statement explaining his reasoning for opting out.

“I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love, if I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”

Williams chose to opt-out due to a reason separate to the pandemic. Williams, in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, revealed that his mom had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. “During a hard time like this, I think I should be next to her every step.”

Niang will most likely receive the $150,000 low-risk stipend along with Duvernay-Tardif and Williams. He did not explain why he opted out.

These three losses are not detrimental to the Chiefs Super Bowl hopes, but all three are projected to have key roles in this upcoming season. Duvernay-Tardif played every snap of the Super Bowl and has only given up 1.5 sacks in the past three seasons combined.

Williams was the leading rusher for the Chiefs last year. However, he only had 498 yards and five touchdowns, a little number compared to other teams RB1’s.

The Chiefs are traditionally a pass-heavy offense. The selection of former LSU running back Clyde Edwards Helaire in this past draft means the impact of Williams’s loss will not be too severe.

Niang was looked at as a backup tackle after being drafted out of TCU this past year. However, the Chiefs have a significant amount of offensive line depth that his loss shouldn’t affect the team too much.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles acquired Goodwin from the 49ers in the offseason when the teams swapped 6th round picks. Philadelphia struggled in the wide receiver spot last season, with nearly every starting receiver missing games in some form. Goodwin and rookie first-round pick Jalen Reagor were looking to bolster a receiving corps for the talented but oft-injured Carson Wentz. 

Goodwin opted out with the low-risk designation because of his five-month-old daughter. He struggled last season with just 12 receptions, 186 yards, and only one touchdown through nine games. Goodwin still maintains elite speed as he is a former Olympic track and field competitor. His vertical threat and ability to take the top off a defense is something the Eagles will miss this year.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Buffalo Bills

The Bills are looking to take over the NFC East which has long been under the control of division rivals, the Patriots. However, they will have to do this without their starting defensive tackle in Lotulelei. The former Utah prospect opted out under the low-risk designation.

Lotulelei may not be the most glamorous player or have a lot of stats, with only 2 sacks last season. However, his contributions on the field have not gone unnoticed. Lotuelelei received a five-year $50 million dollar contract with the Bills in 2018.

Lotulelei is a run-stopper in the trenches for the Bills and has been a model of consistency, only missing four games in his seven-year career. Vernon Butler and free-agent signing Quinton Jefferson are expected to get more snaps. 

Eddie Goldman, DT, Chicago Bears

Another underappreciated defensive tackle, Goldman, opted out under the low-risk category. The Bears have one of the most talented defenses in the league, and Goldman and fellow defensive tackle Akiem Hicks are big reasons why.

A member of the 2015 NFL All-Rookie team, Goldman has been a run stopper in the middle for the Bears. Over the past five seasons, Goldman has amassed 153 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 17 tackles-for-loss. Look for LaCale London or Bilal Nichols to earn more snaps in Goldman’s absence. 

C.J Mosley, LB, New York Jets

While the Jets may not be Super Bowl contenders this season, losing their best linebacker in Mosley does not help.

Family health concerns are why Mosley is opting out under the low-risk designation. The four-time Pro Bowler was to contribute to the Jets defense.

Mosley missed all but 2 games last season due to a groin injury. He is one year into a lucrative five-year, $85 million dollar contract he signed with the Jets in the 2019 offseason.

Three years ago Mosley finished top-5 in the league in solo tackles. He was also a part of the legendary Baltimore Ravens linebacking core that included future Hall of Famers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis.

Look for Blake Cashman and Patrick Onwuasor to step in for Mosley this season.

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