When the NFL and the NFLPA reached an agreement on a Coronavirus deal, they included a stipulation that will allow players to opt out of the 2020 season. Players falling under the high-risk category — including those with a history of cardiovascular disease or cancer — will receive a $350,000 stipend and get accrued/credited seasons, while players who voluntarily step away this year over Covid-19 concerns will get a $150,000 salary advance but no accrued/credited seasons.
Decisions about whether or not to play this year will have to be made by 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 6, but players have already started announcing their intentions — including an ever-growing group of New England Patriots. In order to stay up to date on who will be out this year, please make sure to regularly check back with our opt-out tracker.
August 2, 2020
TE Matt LaCosse: LaCosse appeared in 11 games for New England last season, starting eight. His decision to opt out of 2020 leaves tight ends Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo and undrafted free agents Jake Burt and Rashod Berry on the depth chart entering training camp. LaCosse had signed a two-year contract with New England last spring, and will have his upcoming $1 million base salary toll into 2021.
August 1, 2020
WR Marqise Lee: Lee, 28, signed with the Patriots in the hours leading up to April’s NFL draft after six seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Biletnikoff Award winner out of USC was set to compete for a roster spot as a fifth-to-sixth wide receiver. Lee has caught 174 passes for 2,184 yards and eight touchdowns in his career.
July 27, 2020
FB Danny Vitale: Vitale arrived in New England earlier this offseason and would have competed for the job previously held by since-retired James Develin. Instead however, he became the first member of the team to opt out of the 2020 season. His decision now leaves the team with two players projected to fight for the vacant fullback role: second-year man Jakob Johnson and rookie tight end/H-back Dalton Keene.
G Najee Toran: Toran was projected to compete for a backup role along the Patriots’ interior offensive line this summer: the 24-year-old brought versatility and experience to the table after having played all three interior spots over the course of his career so far. He was still expected to face an uphill battle, though, and now has decided to sit out the 2020 season altogether.
OT Marcus Cannon: New England’s long-time starting right tackle is one of the higher-profile players to pull the breaks on this year — leaving the team with a major question mark at the position he manned continuously since 2016. As opposed to other opt-outs, Cannon 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.
July 28, 2020
LB Dont’a Hightower: Hightower, who became a dad not even two weeks ago, is the highest-profile player in the NFL to opt-out yet: a three-time Super Bowl winner, he has played a prominent role on the Patriots’ defense ever since arriving via the first round of the draft in 2012. Serving as a team leader and the unit’s on-field signal caller, he was projected to again see considerable snaps in 2020 — especially with fellow linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins already having left the NFL’s top-ranked defense in free agency. With Hightower sitting out the upcoming season, New England will have to turn to the young talent on its roster.
RB Brandon Bolden: Bolden’s opt-out hurts the Patriots’ special teams units: the 30-year-old was projected to again see regular action on New England’s kicking game squads — on both coverage, return and block teams — and to rank among the team leaders in playing time and tackles. Furthermore, Bolden would have offered experienced depth at the running back position as well.
S Patrick Chung: Chung, who is expecting another child, becomes the first member of the Patriots’ secondary to opt out of the 2020 season. The veteran, who signed a new contract this offseason and would have been the top strong safety/linebacker hybrid on the roster, was entering his 12th season in the league after he was drafted by New England in the second round. With him now the latest defender to step away for the year, offseason additions Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger will be asked to play more prominent roles.