Damien Williams tops list of players opting out of the NFL season
NFL players who want to opt out of the 2020 season, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, have until today, Aug. 4, at 4 p.m. ET to send written notice to their team.
More than 60 athletes have chosen to sit out the NFL season, including Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams, who played a crucial role in his team’s Super Bowl win in January.
On July 24, NFL owners and the NFL Players Association reached an agreement on opt-out rules and contract guidelines. Quickly, one of Williams’ teammates became the first to announce he would forgo the 2020 season.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who earned a medical degree from McGill University, has been fighting on the front lines in Canada to help combat COVID-19 and will continue to do so in lieu of football this year.
Within a week of the Chiefs guard’s decision, players across the league began to drop out.
Patriots defense took a huge hit
On July 28, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower (71 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks in 2019) notified the Patriots of his desire to opt out.
Later that day, Schefter reported that safety Patrick Chung — another key component of New England's top-ranked defense of 2019 — followed suit.
Eight Patriots players have opted out of the 2020 season, the first since 2000 without quarterback Tom Brady, who is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Among those eight are tight end Matt LaCosse, receiver Marqise Lee, running back Brandon Bolden, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale, and guard Najee Toran.
Other notable opt-outs
The Patriots aren’t the only team entering 2020 shorthanded. Only the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, and Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to have a player opt out.
This doesn’t factor in the players who have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Aug. 5, that number is 107. Since players began reporting to training camp at the end of July, 56 came up positive for the coronavirus.
On the same day Schefter disclosed the Patriots’ roster losses, he reported new Packers receiver Devin Funchess elected to sit out the season. Eagles wideout Marquise Goodwin is another noteworthy receiver who felt the need to stay at home this fall.
The seven-year veteran and his wife just welcomed a daughter in February, after they suffered two miscarriages and the death of their son, born premature, in 2017. Goodwin has spoken publicly about the importance of placing his family’s health above football this season.
"After having lost three babies, and then [the arrival of] our rainbow baby this year ... it's a blessing I didn't want to screw up ... too many times we put our job first before we actually think about our families."— First Take (@FirstTake) July 31, 2020
—@marquisegoodwin on opting out of the 2020 NFL season. pic.twitter.com/NMsotWSWHw
Under the amended collective bargaining agreement, players under contract or subject to a tender can opt out of the 2020 season and are eligible for a stipend of $150,000 to be treated as a salary advance against a tolled contract.
Players considered at high risk for COVID-19 complications will receive an accrued season toward free agency, all benefits, and minimum salary credit for a credited season, and are qualified for a stipend of $350,000, which does not constitute a salary advance. Higher-risk players are not required to opt out this season.
Left tackle Nate Solder, who battled cancer in 2014, is a high-risk opt-out. Solder’s 5-year-old son was also diagnosed with rare tumors in his kidneys in 2015 and underwent his third round of chemotherapy during the 2019 season.
New York Jets star linebacker C.J. Mosley is a voluntary opt-out who also feared for his family's safety.
The four-time Pro Bowler sat out most of last season because of injuries, after he signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Jets in March 2019. Mosley's base salary of $5.85 million for the 2020 season will become his base salary for the 2021 season.
Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Miami receiver Allen Hurns, and Detroit receiver Geronimo Allison are other players who recently threw their name in the opt-out hat.
Prominent free agent Larry Warford, a three-time Pro Bowl guard for New Orleans, fielded multiple offers to play in 2020 but cited hopes to start a family as the reason he would miss the upcoming season.
As of Thursday, the latest player to opt out is Bucs tackle Brad Seaton, the 62nd active player to make that decision.
The choice to sacrifice the 2020 season hasn't come easy for any player.
For the remainder of the athletes participating in football, their teammates' absence will shift the landscape of a rapidly changing league that's destined to look unlike any we have witnessed in recent memory.