The New England Patriots will have to find a new starting right tackle heading into the 2020 season: veteran Marcus Cannon has decided to opt out of what would have been his 10th NFL campaign over concerns about the Coronavirus, as the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported late on Monday.
The decision makes Cannon the third Patriot to use the opt-out that has been introduced as part of the NFL-NFLPA Coronavirus deal: fullback Danny Vitale and interior offensive lineman Najee Toran also will sit out the 2020 season. New England’s long-time starting right tackle is of course the highest-profile player to pull the breaks on this year — leaving the team with a major question mark at the position he manned continuously since 2016.
With Cannon out for the year, and barring any additional opt-outs, the Patriots will have a three-player competition over the course of training camp. Second-year man Yodny Cajuste has to be considered the favorite, with former trade acquisition Korey Cunningham and sixth-round rookie Justin Herron offering additional depth. None of the men has the same experience as New England’s longest-tenured offensive lineman, though.
The team also has Isaiah Wynn, the starter on the left side, under contract as well as guards Joe Thuney and Jermaine Eluemunor — both of whom also have previously lined up at tackle.
As for Cannon himself, he likely falls under the high-risk category: before entering the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and kicking off an impressive professional career that includes three Super Bowl wins, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma. As a result, he would qualify for a $350,000 stipend and also get free agency credit for the 2020 season.
His decision to opt out of the season is therefore no surprising one, although it is another blow for an offensive line that already lost long-time position coach Dante Scarnecchia to retirement earlier this offseason.