How player COVID-19 opt-outs impact the New England Patriots in 2020

Six New England Patriots players have already opted out for the 2020 season.

With concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in the country and around the globe, NFL players and especially members of the New England Patriots are beginning to opt out of the upcoming year.

On July 24, the first NFL player announced he would not be taking part in the 2020 campaign when Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif announced he would opt out of the year while continuing to assist as an orderly in a long-term care facility in the Montreal area.

Since that announcement, multiple other players around the league have begun to follow suit, including a total of six Patriots players as of Tuesday morning.

After offensive linemen Najee Toran and Marcus Cannon and fullback Danny Vitale publicly announced Monday they would be opting to sit out the upcoming season, a few higher-profile players for New England followed suit on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter announced that Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower — a three-time Super Bowl champion and team captain — and running back Brandon Bolden are sitting out the 2020 year.

Later on Tuesday morning, Patriots safety Patrick Chung also announced he plans to opt out of the season, making him the sixth and latest New England player to add to the growing list.

The biggest name among that list of five Patriots players is without a doubt Hightower, who was hoping to enjoy another solid year in the middle of the New England defense this season.

Impact of the opt outs on the New England Patriots.

Hightower, who was slated to make $8 million in base salary in 2020, and his wife recently had their first child a few weeks ago and cited that as the main reason the linebacker was opting to not take the field for his ninth season in the NFL and with the Patriots.

The departure of all five of the New England players so far who are opting not to play this season will result in Bill Belichick and company trying to quickly fill those holes on a defense that ranked near the top of the league a season ago.

The absence of Hightower will be the most notable loss for the Patriots, especially after the departures of linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr. during free agency this offseason.

The 2020 campaign was supposed to be Hightower’s final year of his contract in New England, but the good news for the Patriots is that his contract will now carry over into the 2021 season so they can address the topic of potentially extending him for at least another year.

With about a dozen players around the NFL already deciding to opt out of the upcoming season with many uncertainties still arising, the Patriots have been a team that has been the most impacted so far this offseason.

Although you can’t blame the players for deciding not to play this season due to health concerns, the latest departures for New England now creates a decent amount of uncertainty as to how its defense will look in 2020 and how the team will try and replace those players leading up to the start of the new year.