The New England Patriots’ roster lost some considerable talent earlier this week, when a group of six players decided to sit out the 2020 season by exercising the Coronavirus opt-out clause. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and starting right tackle Marcus Cannon are the most prominent names on a list that also includes running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and interior lineman Najee Toran.
New England’s list of opt-outs almost another big name as well: according to a report by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Patriots team captain and special teams ace Matthew Slater came close to opting out as well but eventually decided against it,
“One guy that almost opted out — he decided not to — is Matt Slater,” Garafolo said during an appearance on the NFL Network show Good Morning Football on Thursday. ”We were chasing this yesterday, Ian Rapoport and I, because I was told that Slater was leaning towards opting out. Rapoport eventually tracked down Slater, who said ‘No, it was a tough decision, but I will be playing.’”
Garafolo also indicated that Slater opting out might have kicked off a second wave of players to follow Hightower, Chung and company and sit out the 2020 season as well. Luckily for the Patriots, however, the 34-year-old decided to stay put and return to the team for what will be his 13th season — and his first as the team’s most experienced player following the offseason departures of quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Slater, meanwhile, is projected to play a big role in the Patriots’ transition process from the Tom Brady era into a future filled with uncertainty. His leadership will be critical, while his on-field impact as one of the best kick coverage players in football also cannot be denied.
As for New England itself, the team reportedly believes that no opt-outs will follow between the exodus from earlier this week and the league’s decision deadline. The exact date of that deadline, by the way, will depend on when the NFL and the NFLPA sign off on the Coronavirus amendment that will be added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Once that agreement is signed, players have seven more days to opt either in or out. This means that the deadline will come no sooner than August 6.