Which players are opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic? Now that the deadline has passed for players to notify their teams whether or not they are playing, we know that there are some significant players who won’t be taking the field this season.
There won’t be any preseason games this year, but the regular season is set to begin Sept. 10, with the Houston Texans traveling to Kansas City.
Players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out of the season. Players without risk can earn $150,000 for opting out.
Here are the players opting out of the 2020 season and what it means for their teams:
Why he’s out: Allison decided to opt out of his one-year, $910,000 deal with the Lions because of the birth of his child. Allison signed with Detroit in the offseason to compete for a backup receiving role behind starters Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.
What it means: It might actually benefit Allison in the long run because as of now, Detroit’s top four returning receivers are all in contract years. While it’s expected Golladay will get extended, there might be more of an opportunity for a larger role in 2021, which his contract will carry over to, than this season. He was expected to be heavily in play for a backup role this season, competing with Geremy Davis, Victor Bolden, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham and fifth-round pick Quintez Cephus for roster spots. — Michael Rothstein
Beal, 23, was expected to be in the starting mix along with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine for a starting spot opposite offseason acquisition James Bradberry. Picked in the third round of the supplemental draft before the 2018 season, he sat out his rookie year because of a shoulder injury.
What it means: The Giants are now thin at cornerback, with offseason acquisition James Bradberry and Grant Haley the only real experienced players at the position. The likely solution is to add a veteran to the mix at some point. Former Patriot and Titan Logan Ryan is a realistic possibility. — Jordan Raanan
The Browns signed Billings this offseason on a one-year deal to combat their lack of depth up front last year. He would have been Cleveland’s top reserve defensive tackle, behind starters Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
What it means: After signing him to a one-year deal this offseason, the Browns were counting on Billings to solve the depth issues at defensive tackle that plagued them last year. With Billings out, third-round pick Jordan Elliott could step into a more important role up front. — Jake Trotter
Bolden, 30, was set to enter his ninth NFL season, and eighth in New England. He was going to earn $1.3 million in base salary in 2020, which was the final year of his contract. That will toll to 2021.
What it means: A valuable backup on offense because of his ability to run, catch and block, Bolden’s primary value to the Patriots came on special teams. Undrafted J.J. Taylor (Arizona) could be a primary beneficiary at running back — where the Patriots had been deep personnel-wise — while the special-teams contributions could come from a number of different spots. — Mike Reiss
Why he’s out: Cannon, 32, is set to receive the $350,000 higher-risk amount as a cancer survivor, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Cannon overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma after he was drafted in 2011.
What it means: A powerful right tackle who effectively moves bodies in the run game, Cannon’s play didn’t match 2018 levels last season, but he was still viewed as a capable starter. Yodny Cajuste, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve (quad) after the Patriots selected him in the third round out of West Virginia, now has a golden opportunity to emerge. — Mike Reiss
Chung, 32, had agreed to a two-year extension with the Patriots in May that included a $2 million signing bonus and base salary of $1.1 million. While the move was made to help the team create salary-cap space, it also provided Chung with up-front cash and reflected his status as a lock to be on the roster.
What it means: A projected starter next to Devin McCourty at safety, Chung’s versatility to cover tight ends and also play closer to the line of scrimmage while supporting against the run has great value to Bill Belichick. Top draft pick Kyle Dugger (second round, No. 37) of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne could now be thrust into a starting role, with veteran free-agent signing Adrian Phillips also in the mix. — Mike Reiss
Stephen A. Smith explains why he expects there to be an NFL season in 2020 despite concerns over the coronavirus.
Why he’s out: Funchess had first-hand experience with COVID-19 this offseason while caring for family members who contracted the virus.
What it means: He was the only receiver the Packers added this offseason in either free agency or the draft — in a year most on the outside believed receiver was their biggest need. Funchess would have competed with Allen Lazard for the No. 2 job. Now, the Packers essentially have the same collection of receivers with which they ended last season — subbing Equanimeous St. Brown (who was on IR) for Geronimo Allison (who left in free agency after a disappointing year). Once again, it looks as if it will be up to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to make the Packers’ receivers special — not the other way around. — Rob Demovsky
Why he’s out: Goldman opted out due to health concerns related to COVID-19. The 26-year old defensive tackle has experienced issues with asthma in the past. Because Goldman falls into the high-risk category, he will receive a $350,000 stipend by opting out. Goldman signed a four-year extension with Chicago in 2018 that contained $25 million in guarantees.
What it means: Goldman is one of Chicago’s best-run stoppers. The 6-foot-4, 320 pound nose tackle will be missed. A former second-round draft choice, Goldman never posted gaudy statistics, but the team considered him a valuable member of Chicago’s top-rated defense. The Bears must now find a new anchor in the middle of their defensive line. Veteran John Jenkins — recently removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list — is a strong contender to replace Goldman at nose tackle. — Jeff Dickerson
Why he’s out: Family is top of mind for Goodwin. His wife, Morgan, had a baby girl in February after suffering multiple miscarriages.
What it means: There’s greater pressure on DeSean Jackson to stay healthy and the rookie receivers to produce. The Eagles weren’t relying heavily on Goodwin but hoped he’d help improve their speed and depth problem when they acquired him from the 49ers in April. His absence eliminates an insurance policy option behind the 33-year-old Jackson, who is coming off an abdominal tear, and heightens the importance of first-round pick Jalen Reagor contributing early in his career. — Tim McManus
A three-time Super Bowl champion and team captain, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Hightower traditionally calls the defensive signals and was going to be relied upon as much as ever this season after the free-agency departures of linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr.
What it means: This is the defense’s equivalent of the offense losing Tom Brady, as Hightower was the primary signal-caller and leader of the huddle. It won’t be easy replacing a three-down linebacker with his varied skill set, so the Patriots will probably do it with a by-committee-type approach — with Ja’Whaun Bentley (2018 fifth round) a leading candidate to pair with rookies Josh Uche (second round, No. 60) and Anfernee Jennings (third round, No. 87), among others. — Mike Reiss
Why he’s out: Hurns is opting out due to concerns about keeping his family safe, particularly a baby boy that he has due soon. Hurns came home to Miami in 2019 to play for the Dolphins after being born in the city and attending the University of Miami. His play earned him an extension in late November and he was looking forward to building off that, but he made the difficult decision that safety was a priority over football.
What it means: The Dolphins lose some important receiver depth with Hurns, who was likely to be their No. 4 or No. 5 receiver. But Hurns’ biggest value comes in that his game is predicated on strong route-running, toughness and being able to play multiple receiver spots. This opt-out gives a bigger opportunity for Isaiah Ford, Gary Jennings Jr., Mack Hollins and undrafted free agents Kirk Merritt and Matt Cole to not only make the roster as a backup receiver job but also potentially contribute. — Cameron Wolfe
Why he’s out: When James formally announced he was opting out he mentioned his newborn son — born May 22 — and added “there’s just too much unknown about this virus and about plans handling it going forward.” James also said he had a family member who had been hospitalized because of the virus in recent months as well and “[I] hope to not have that happen again.”
What it means: For a team that neither selected a tackle in the draft nor signed one in free agency, it impacts how the Broncos feel about their depth. Elijah Wilkinson, who is coming off foot surgery, will start in James’ right tackle spot with Garett Bolles, now in the final year of his rookie deal after the team did not pick up the fifth-year option, at left tackle. The only other tackle on the roster to start a game for the Broncos is Jake Rodgers. Rodgers is a grind-it-out player who has stayed at it despite having been released or waived 12 times in his career since he was an Atlanta Falcons‘ draft pick. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak has consistently said he likes Rodgers’ potential, but the Broncos probably will have to scan who is available when cuts are made around the league before the start of the regular season. — Jeff Legwold
Why he’s out: Lee, 28, became a first-time father in February, and said protecting his newborn daughter, Alia, and family was at the core of his decision. “This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that’s going out there, it just wasn’t worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns,” Lee told ESPN.com.
What it means: The Patriots have had some success with free agents who fall into the low-risk/high-reward category, and they were excited to see if Lee could recapture the pre-injury form that led the Jaguars to reward him with a lucrative extension two years ago. But they weren’t counting on it, as he was vying for a roster spot behind locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. Now Jakobi Meyers, who made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, could see his odds to stick again increase. — Mike Reiss
Lotulelei signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Bills in 2018 and has started at defensive tackle ever since, operating as one of the team’s primary run-stopping defensive linemen. He signed a restructured contract this offseason, guaranteeing him $4.5 million in 2020; his new contract will now activate in 2021.
What it means: Third-year tackle Harrison Phillips probably will take over as the Bills’ primary 1-technique defensive lineman, with Vincent Taylor behind him. It also opens the door for rookie defensive end AJ Epenesa to slide inside more often than originally planned. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Why he’s out: McCray cited health concerns for his family as the reason for opting out, saying that while he “will miss being there with my teammates, coaches and Jaguar personnel competing on Sundays, but I feel that God has directed my steps to make this decision.”
What it means: McCray is a core special-teams player so that’s where his loss will he felt the most. However, he also was able to be productive in spot duty on defense and was a valuable depth player there. Rookie LB Shaquille Quarterman was going to play a big role on special teams and he becomes even more important now. — Michael DiRocco
Why he’s out: Melvin did not give the Jaguars a reason for opting out in 2020.
What it means: Melvin, who signed a one-year contract with the Jaguars worth $1.75 million in March, was expected to compete with third-year player Tre Herndon to start opposite rookie first-round pick CJ Henderson. The 30-year-old Melvin has four interceptions and 41 pass breakups in seven seasons with Baltimore, Indianapolis, Detroit, New England and Oakland. His decision to opt out could open up a spot on the roster for rookie Luq Barcoo, one of the most sought-after rookie undrafted free agents. — Michael DiRocco
Why he’s out: Mosley is opting out due to family health concerns — specifically, his young son. As part of the five-year, $85 million contract he signed in 2019, he already received a $10 million roster bonus in March. His $6 million base salary, fully guaranteed, moves to next season. The contract now runs through 2024. It’s unclear if he will receive the $150,000 stipend or the high-risk stipend of $350,000.
What it means: It’s a big blow to the defense, which also won’t have safety Jamal Adams (traded to Seattle). Mosley, who missed 14 games last season, was projected as the middle linebacker and signal caller. He could be replaced by Avery Williamson, who returns after missing 2019 because of an ACL injury. They also have Neville Hewitt, James Burgess, Jr. and Patrick Onwuasor, all of whom have starting experience. — Rich Cimini
Why he’s out: Olawale, the starting fullback the past two seasons, chose to not play for family reasons, according to sources. The Cowboys picked up his 2020 option to start the offseason but it did not come with any guaranteed money. He will receive the $150,000 stipend that will come out of his 2021 salary should he make the team.
What it means: On its face, it doesn’t look as if it means much since Olawale did not have a carry and caught only two passes in the past two seasons, but he was a valuable special-teams contributor. Also, new coach Mike McCarthy has a history of using the fullback from his Green Bay days. Without a veteran fullback on the roster, it could allow the Cowboys to go heavier at tight end or another position to make up for Olawale’s absence. — Todd Archer
Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin details how the team has handled the positive COVID-19 diagnosis of head trainer Eric Sugarman and adds that DT Michael Pierce has opted out of the season.
Why he’s out: Pierce is opting out due to respiratory concerns, according to a source. The 27-year-old signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Vikings in March. The $3 million base salary Pierce was set to make during his first year in Minnesota will now be his salary for 2021. Because he falls into the high-risk category, he will receive a $350,000 stipend by opting out of the season.
What it means: Pierce was set to replace Linval Joseph at nose tackle, so the Vikings have another major hole to fill on the defensive line. Minnesota’s trade for P.J. Hall fell through when the former Raiders defensive tackle failed a physical, so it appears second-year tackle Armon Watts is in line to battle for Pierce’s spot unless the Vikings pick up another available free agent. — Courtney Cronin
Why he’s out: In a statement posted to Twitter, the 32-year-old Solder cited family concerns, including his son facing cancer and his own bout with cancer. Solder also has a newborn son. He said he “will deeply miss my teammates, coaches and everyone in the Giants organization.” Solder, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants, with $35 million guaranteed, in March 2018. At the time, it made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.
What it means: First-round pick Andrew Thomas now gets to slide in immediately at left tackle. Right tackle will be an open competition between Cameron Fleming, Nick Gates and rookie Matt Peart, among others. Solder’s future with the team, meanwhile, is in limbo. The Giants save $13.55 million against the salary cap this season when all is said and done. Some of it could be reinvested in a cornerback to help fill the void left by Sam Beal‘s opt-out and DeAndre Baker’s legal troubles. The rest can be rolled over into next season. — Jordan Raanan
Why he’s out: Duvernay-Tardif, 29, was the first NFL player to publicly say he won’t suit up this season. Duvernay-Tardif has been the Chiefs’ starting right guard for the past five seasons and played every offensive snap in their Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. He is a medical school graduate from McGill University in Canada and had been assisting as an orderly in a long-term care facility in the Montreal area during the coronavirus pandemic. “I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love,” he wrote on social media. “If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”
What it means: The Chiefs have plenty of candidates from whom to choose to replace Duvernay-Tardif, including free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, returning veterans Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin and third-round draft pick Lucas Niang. But in Duvernay-Tardif, the Chiefs are losing a player willing to go until every whistle, and sometimes beyond. They’re also having to replace their other starting guard from Super Bowl LIV, free-agent departure Stefan Wisniewski. — Adam Teicher
Tupou signed a one-year deal with the Bengals after the team made him a restricted free agent in the offseason. Tupou appeared in all 16 games last season and made seven starts.
What it means: The Bengals will be wise to sign a veteran defensive tackle before the season. In addition to Tupou’s absence, the Bengals also cut defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow earlier this offseason after a failed physical. Cincinnati needs at least one more interior defensive lineman to not only provide depth but to limit the snap count for veterans Geno Atkins and D.J. Reader. With $25.4 million in cap space available, Cincinnati should have plenty of money to add a veteran and still have enough for other expenses that will arise throughout the year. — Ben Baby
Why he’s out: Warmack’s decision to opt out was influenced by having family members who have already dealt with COVID-19. According to a source, one of Warmack’s relatives died and others have been hospitalized because of the virus. The source said the 323-pound Warmack went back and forth on whether to play this season before deciding to sit out, which was his mother’s preference. The voluntary opt-out means Warmack will receive a $150,000 advance on the $910,000 he was scheduled to make in base salary this season, with the terms of his one-year, veteran-minimum deal rolling over to 2021. Warmack, who sat out the 2019 season to get healthy, intends to play in 2021.
What it means: Third-round pick Damien Lewis is now the clear-cut favorite to start at right guard. The Seahawks considered Warmack a starting-caliber player and believed he had a legitimate chance to win that competition even as he came back from a year away from football. No on-field work over the offseason and no preseason games means the Seahawks will have less to evaluate as they determine a starter at right guard, whether it’s Lewis or a returning player like Ethan Pocic or Jordan Simmons. — Brady Henderson
Williams, 28, led the Chiefs in rushing last season with 498 yards and five touchdowns. He scored two touchdowns in Kansas City’s Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
What it means: The Chiefs have big plans for rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire but Williams’ decision leaves them without a proven featured back. Backups like Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson have all had their moments but not with any consistency. Williams is a proven performer and did it in big moments, such as in Super Bowl LIV. The pressure is on Edwards-Helaire to deliver both immediately and consistently. — Adam Teicher
Why he’s out: Wilson is opting out due to concerns about keeping his family safe in the midst of what he calls a “crazy time” during the coronavirus pandemic. He said his focus has always been “faith, family, football” and this pandemic has led him to do what he believes puts his family in the best situation. It was difficult for Wilson, who had been training hard preparing for a healthy bounce-back season.
What it means: The Dolphins take a huge hit in the receiver room losing Wilson, who was going to be their No. 3 receiver and likely top weapon of out of the slot. This opt out puts more pressure on DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant to stay healthy and carry the bulk of the receiving reps. Parker is now the only Dolphins receiver with more than 1,000 career receiving yards meaning Miami might have to search for veteran upgrades in free agency. — Cameron Wolfe
Why he’s out: Woods cited the health of his family as his reason for opting out, saying that has “always been the most important thing in my life.”
What it means: The Jaguars signed the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Woods to a one-year deal to shore up a run defense that gave up 139 yards per game last season. Without him there’s a big hole (literally) in the middle of the front and the Jaguars are going to have to rely much more on rookie Davon Hamilton than anticipated. Veteran Abry Jones will start so there is at least some experience available but Hamilton has to be productive. — Michael DiRocco
Stephen A. Smith expresses his disgust with Odell Beckham Jr. saying the NFL season shouldn’t happen when OBJ could opt out of the season.
The 26-year-old Vitale had signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Patriots in May as a free agent. The contract included $100,000 in guaranteed money. Vitale, who has played in 44 career games, wasn’t a lock to make the Patriots’ final roster.
What it means: The Patriots utilize the fullback position almost as much as any team in the NFL, and Vitale was a candidate to fill the void created by James Develin’s retirement. Jakob Johnson, who played four games for the team in 2019 before landing on injured reserve, is now a leading candidate to fill the void. — Mike Reiss
Others opting out
The 6-foot-3, 322-pound Atkins, 27, has played in 14 career games for the Lions. The Georgia product started six games for Detroit last season and was a candidate for a backup spot on the roster this season.
Benjamin, 30, was expected to compete for a roster spot at wide receiver and, probably, as a returner in what would have been his first season with the 49ers.
The 28-year-old signed with the Lions in the offseason after being out of the league last year after being cut by New England on Sept. 6. Before last season, Bodine had been a starter every year in the league at center, playing four seasons with the Bengals and one with the Bills.
Brantley, a 25-year-old former sixth-round pick, was signed by Washington in 2018. He was on injured reserve for 15 games last season.
Brewer opted out because of his history with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “… I am at high risk and will opt out of playing in the NFL this season,” Brewer said, per the Rams website. “I would like to thank the Rams for their support and I look forward to getting back on the field in 2021 and beyond.”
The 26-year-old Canady signed a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason. He played in 13 games last season between the Jets and Ravens.
Harvey-Clemons was going to have to fight to earn a roster spot this season. He was a backup linebacker in his first three seasons, playing mostly in sub packages in a coverage role. But with Washington switching to a 4-3 and having drafted one linebacker and signed two others — plus possibly getting back Reuben Foster — Harvey-Clemons faced a tough battle.
Coleman is considered high risk because he is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 18. That should qualify Coleman to receive the $350,000 stipend. He signed a one-year deal worth a little less than $1 million in March, which would now roll over to 2021.
Doctson, a first-round pick in 2016, signed with the Jets in January. He has 81 catches and eight touchdowns in his career.
Dorbeck is an undrafted free agent from Southern Miss. He started 34 games in college.
Eligwe joined the Raiders as a free agent on Dec. 19, and though he was on the 53-man roster last season’s final two games, he was never active. Eligwe, who played in a combined 24 games for the Chiefs and Giants in 2017 and 2018, was an unlikely candidate to make Las Vegas’ roster this season.
Forbes, a 2019 sixth-round pick, was expected to compete for the backup spot at right guard this season behind Wyatt Teller, who started the back half of the 2019 season.
Gaines, 28, missed all of last season because of a core muscle injury. The Bills re-signed Gaines to a one-year deal in March and were expecting the five-year veteran to provide depth in their secondary.
Gilbert, 32, became the first Cardinals player to opt out of the season. Gilbert suffered a torn ACL just before Week 1 and missed the 2019 season after he was traded from the Steelers to the Cardinals in March 2019. He agreed to a one-year deal with Arizona this March.
Gossett, 25, spent much of last season on the practice squad for the Browns, as he was promoted to the active roster right before Cleveland’s season finale. He played five games as a rookie for the Cardinals in 2018 after being drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round out of Appalachian State.
Guidry, who signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent earlier this year, will not receive the $150,000 payout. He will get to keep his $10,000 signing bonus and the Cowboys will continue to hold his rights.
Killings spent the 2019 season on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral early in training camp.
Koloamatangi, 26, joined the practice squad last season and dressed for two games but did not play.
LaCosse was entering his second year with the Patriots and sixth in the NFL. LaCosse played in 11 games last season in New England, totaling 13 receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown. He was projected to be on the roster again this year, complementing rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Lucas, who the Bears signed to a one-year deal, was expected to compete for one of the club’s backup safety spots. Chicago guaranteed Lucas $340,000 for the 2020 season at the time of his signing, a clear indication the Bears considered the veteran a strong contender to make the final 53-man roster.
No details on why the undrafted rookie made the decision were revealed, but he was a long shot to make the 53-man roster.
The 6-foot-7, 316-pound lineman signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent after two seasons at TCU.
Miller says he believes he is at a high risk for COVID-19. The 24-year-old was drafted to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but with the Panthers moving back to a 4-3 this season he was considered a backup edge rusher.
An undrafted free agent in 2018, he spent the majority of his two seasons on the team’s practice squad and was going to have a difficult time making the roster this season due to a loaded linebacker position.
The Chiefs lost a member of their 2020 draft class after Niang told the team he would opt out of the 2020 season. He figured in the playing picture at guard as a rookie but eventually could be moved to tackle.
Peko’s wife, Giuliana, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year and Peko was briefly excused from Bills training camp last summer to be with her. He announced last season that her treatments had been successful and she was cancer-free, but her having lived with the disease would put her in the at-risk demographic for COVID-19.
Prince appeared in four games with the Dolphins in 2019 before he was eventually released. The Bengals picked him up toward the end of the season with hopes of having him as a depth option moving forward.
Scott, a wide receiver and kick returner, became the second Giants player to opt out of the season.
Smith, 33, was the oldest offensive lineman on the team and was expected to give Baltimore experienced depth at offensive tackle.
Seaton was a seventh-round pick by the Titans in 2017. He joined the Bucs’ practice squad later that year. Seaton started one game in 2019.
Tell, a fifth-round draft pick in 2019, was projected in a depth role in the defensive backfield for the Colts. He had 23 tackles and five passes defensed as a rookie last season.
After being Baltimore’s primary returner last season, Thomas, 27, re-signed with the Ravens on March 14 on a one-year, $935,000 (only $25,000 guaranteed) contract but was considered on the bubble entering training camp.
Toran, 24, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA in 2018 with the 49ers and was vying for a backup role after spending the 2019 season on the Patriots’ practice squad.
While both D.J. Killings and Valoaga opted out, neither was expected to make the Raiders’ roster this season. Valoaga did not sign with the Raiders until the season’s last week and was inactive for the season finale.
Wick has opted out because of an asthma condition. Wick, 26, was going to compete for a backup job this summer after joining the Saints’ practice squad late last season.
Vander Laan, 27, was set to battle for a backup/special-teams job on the Saints’ roster after appearing in two games with them last season and also spending time on their practice squad.
The 25-year-old defensive lineman played in three games for Houston in 2019 after he was activated from the practice squad.