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NFL COVID opt-outs begin

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The NFL is preparing for the 2020 season with veterans beginning to report to training camp today. As part of the NFL and NFL Players Association agreement for operations during the coronavirus pandemic, players are allowed to opt out of this season, essentially putting their contract on hold for a year while receiving a stipend throughout the season, with “high-risk” players receiving $350,000 and lower-risk players receiving $150,000 (though the stipend is more like a loan off the salary they should have made this year, and will be “paid back” with the tolled year of the contract).

How many players will take the opt-out option is yet to be seen, but they are beginning - and they are hitting the New England Patriots hard. Six Patriots players have decided to sit out this season, with offensive linemen Marcus Cannon and Najee Toran, fullback Danny Vitale, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, running back Brandon Bolden, and safety Patrick Chung all using the opt-out. The Hightower loss for the Patriots is probably the one that will hurt the most, with the Patriots having already lost Kyle Van Noy (Miami Dolphins) and Jamie Collins (Detroit Lions) in free agency this year. Chung, whose opt out was reported this morning by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, will also be a rough one, especially as the strong safety could have been used in support to help cover the loss of Hightower.

The Chicago Bears have seen defensive tackle Eddie Goldman opt out for the year, while Washington Football Team defensive end Caleb Brantley, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady, Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Anthony McKinnie, Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kyle Peko, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas, Seattle Seahawks guard Chance Warmack, and New Orleans Saints tight end Cole Wick have all also decided to sit out the year.

Interestingly, McKinnie is an undrafted free agent and will not receive the $150,000 stipend/salary advance for this year. Brantley is the first player to have been listed as a “higher risk” opt-out.

More opt-outs will likely be reported throughout the day. How many of them, and which teams will be hit hard remains to be seen. Thus far, the Dolphins have not had any opt-outs, but they could still be coming.