The last few days were a whirlwind for the New England Patriots. After cutting down their roster from 90 to 80 players over the weekend, they also saw six players exercise their right to opt out of the 2020 season due to Coronavirus concerns: linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and interior offensive lineman Najee Toran will not suit up this year.
While the list is not necessarily finalized and a lot can still change before the deadline for players to either opt in or out of the upcoming season — one that comes no sooner than August 4th — the Patriots are reportedly not expecting to lose any more of their talent via the opt-out. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the organization believes that it has reached the end of its talent-drain via this route.
That said, the situation in itself remains very much a fluid one as players start to get the results of their initial Covid-19 testing back. Even if the Patriots have indeed reached the end of their opt-outs despite the uncertainty surrounding the entire situation, their roster heading into training camp is therefore not set in stone just yet — not just because five of 80 spots are currently unoccupied.
The pandemic still hangs over the team’s collective head as well. The first round of the aforementioned Covid-19 tests could reveal some players to either carry the virus or to have been in close contact with people who tested positive. In both cases, they would instantly be sent to the NFL’s new Reserve/Covid-19 list. Par for the course for this year’s offseason, the organization will therefore have to continue its “wait-and-see” approach.