Through the first few days in which NFL players were permitted to apply for an opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, the majority of whom would qualify for a stipend, eight players had taken that opportunity, citing concerns over health and safety for themselves and their family. That included New England Patriots lineman Marcus Cannon, a cancer survivor who qualified as a high-risk player and will receive a $350,000 stipend.
Just yesterday, the number of players choosing to opt out ballooned, adding another 17 players to the list, currently standing at 25 as of the time of this writing, though it’s possible that more may have made it known that they are opting out by the time this posts.
Yesterday’s wave of opt-outs includes a number of significant names, such as nose tackle Eddie Goldman of the Chicago Bears, who had become a key cog in that defensive unit. He was given $25 million in guarantees in a contract extension that he signed in 2018.
Some significant names were even signed to new teams as free agents this year. Perhaps the most significant of those is another defensive tackle, Michael Pierce, who left the Baltimore Ravens to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. He was their big offseason addition, signing a three-year, $27 million deal to replace Linval Joseph.
Pierce is a big man who has a history of respiratory problems. He talked things over with his family, and they chose the opt-out. As a high-risk player, he will be given the $350,000 stipend as opposed to $150,000. Marquise Goodwin qualifies for the voluntary stipend, but his reason is just as important.
His wife experienced multiple miscarriages over the course of several years before successfully giving birth to a baby girl earlier this year. The pain that this couple has experienced trying to expand their family should be easy for anybody to understand, their choice here, obvious.
The Patriots have experienced the most opt-outs of any team, with three that I mentioned in yesterday morning’s article. Since then, they have seen two defensive starters decide to opt out, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots had among the best defenses in the NFL last season, but they have lost a lot of pieces since then, and now have lost two more because of the pandemic.
A number of other players have not been named yet, like Star Lotulelei, who is a core starter for the Buffalo Bills’ defense on the front line—another one of the top defenses in the NFL. This is an important loss for a team on the rise. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who signed with the Green Bay Packers in free agency, also chose to opt out.
It’s important to understand that these players are not just choosing to take some money and run. There are also players, such as undrafted free agents like Jordan Mack of the Carolina Panthers and Anthony McKinney of the Tennessee Titans, who do not qualify for stipends.
Players have a week after the modified CBA is formally ratified, and it has not formally been yet, which means as of this writing, there is still no formal deadline for players to elect to exercise their right to opt out of the season. Surely there will be a number of additional players who choose to do so by then.