Tomorrow at 4PM is the deadline at which point players are required to have formally submitted their intention to opt out of the 2020 season, whether as a voluntary or high-risk opt out. So far, more than 50 players have already chosen to opt out, including about 20 percent of that coming from the New England Patriots alone.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the few franchises spared the loss of talent by players choosing to err on the side of caution concerning the health risks that would affect themselves and their loved ones. The same could not be said for any of their division rivals.
While none of yet lost starters, and it doesn’t appear at this point that they will, all have taken significant blows to their depth. Most recently, the Cleveland Browns’ defensive line depth took a significant hit with Andrew Billings, whom they signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason from the Cincinnati Bengals, chose yesterday to opt out.
This does not affect the starting lineup—Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi are their two starting defensive tackles—but they already had concerns about the depth up front last season, and their going out and signing Billings was an important step in trying to address that deficit. They did add Adrian Clayborn as the third defensive end behind Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon.
Billings’ opt-out puts a lot of pressure on rookie third-round draft pick Jordan Elliott to be able to step up and be ready to contribute and play snaps this season, right out of the gate. Their other two defensive tackles with experience on the roster combined to make eight tackles last season, in Eli Ankou and Daniel Ekuale.
Defensive tackle has been the hardest-hit position when it comes to those who have made the decision to opt out, with several of them having done so as high-risk players. Among them was Michael Pierce, who was with the Baltimore Ravens for the past four seasons before signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an unrestricted free agent.
Other prominent names, such as Eddie Goldman, Star Lotulelei, Kyle Peko, and Al Woods, among reserves and rotational players, constitute a pretty healthy percentage of the total player population that has opted out. The Bengals have also had a reserve interior lineman, Josh Tupou, take the opt-out.
As you might guess, a large number of offensive linemen have chosen to opt out as well. Most recently, former Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Marcus Gilbert with the Arizona Cardinals chose to opt out of the 2020 season. He was slated to compete to start at right tackle. Now Kelvin Beachum—another former Steeler—will compete for that job.