Update 7/27/2020: Danny Vitale, Najee Toran become the first Patriots to opt out of the 2020 NFL season over Coronavirus concerns
After fullback Danny Vitale became the first member of the New England Patriots to opt out of the 2020 NFL season over Coronavirus concerns on Monday, interior offensive lineman Najee Toran joined him on the list a short time later: according to the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride, Toran has decided to sit out the year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bringing one year of experience on their practice squad to the table, Toran was projected to compete for a backup role along the Patriots’ interior offensive line this summer. The 24-year-old did bring some versatility to the table after having played all three interior spots over the course of his career so far, but was expected to face an uphill battle against Hjalte Froholdt and Jermaine Eluemunor as well as rookies Michael Onwenu and Dustin Woodard.
Like Vitale, Toran will get a $150,000 stipend for opting out of the season if done so while not falling under the high-risk category (those players would receive a $350,000 stipend). Likewise, his contract for 2020 will toll and he will not become an exclusive rights free agent next offseason.
With him now also opting out of the season, New England will have two open spots on its 80-man roster once the moves become official.
Original story 7/27/2020: Patriots fullback Danny Vitale is reportedly opting out of the 2020 NFL season over Coronavirus concerns
The NFL-NFLPA Coronavirus deal that was agreed upon over the weekend gave player the possibility to either opt in or out of the 2020 season over concerns about the pandemic. It now seems as if the first member of the New England Patriots has made a decision in favor of an opt-out: as first reported by USA Today’s Jarrett Bell, fullback Danny Vitale is opting out for this year.
Vitale arrived in New England earlier this offseason, when the Patriots signed him to a one-year, $1.3 million free agency contract. With long-time fullback James Develin announcing his retirement from the game a short time later, the 26-year-old was one of the candidates to fill his former role: Vitale was set to compete against second-year man Jakob Johnson and rookie tight end Dalton Keene for the lead-blocking role.
With Vitale now opting out of the 2020 season, only Johnson and Keene remain in the competition. The Patriots also have blocking tight ends Jake Burt and Rashod Berry as potential options to line up in the backfield on select plays.
As for Vitale, his decision does not come as too big a surprise considering that he and his wife, Caley, are parents of a newborn baby. He himself, meanwhile, will receive a $150,000 stipend for making the voluntarily opting out while his contract will toll and his season neither be accrued nor credited.
Vitale now becomes the fifth NFL player to reportedly opt out. He joins Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady, Seattle Seahawks interior offensive lineman Chance Warmack and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas.