As training camp begins for most NFL teams Tuesday, players have begun to announce their intention to opt out of the upcoming season because of concerns regarding the coronavirus. The New England Patriots have been affected the most with five players choosing not to play football this year.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the most high-profile name to skip the 2020 season. Starting offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, backup offensive lineman Najee Toran and fullback Danny Vitale have also decided to opt out for New England.
Running back Brandon Bolden also plans to stay home this year, according to ESPN.
Players that voluntarily opt out of the season will get a $150,000 stipend, which is treated as a salary advance on their contract, according to an agreement between the NFL and the league’s players’ association. A player that opts out because he’s deemed a high-risk candidate will get a $350,000 stipend, which is not considered to be an advance against future salary.
My understanding is Dont'a Hightower's opt-out is considered voluntary, meaning he's entitled to a $150,000 salary advance, whereas Marcus Cannon's is "higher risk" and he gets a $350,000 stipend. https://t.co/ogpx232J7m
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 28, 2020
BAL, D. Thomas, WR, $910k
DAL, M. Canady, CB, $1.05M
KC, L. Duvernay-Tardif, OL, $3.5M
NE, D. Hightower, ILB, $8.8M
NE, M. Cannon, OT, $6.2M
NE, B. Bolden, RB, $1.2M
NE, D. Vitale, FB, $1.2M
NE, N. Toran, OL, $675k
SEA, C. Warmack, G, $1M
WAS, C. Brantley, DT, $750k
— Spotrac (@spotrac) July 28, 2020
Hightower had an $8 million base salary this season and has already earned $44 million during his eight-year NFL career, according to Spotrac. The 30-year-old would have become a free agent after this season had he played, but league rules stipulate that he’ll be signed with New England through next year because of his decision.
He is a leader of the Patriots’ defense and should resume his role with the team in 2021. Toran and Vitale, on the other hand, are far from certain to make New England’s roster when they return to the field next year.
Vitale has made close to $2.2 million in four NFL seasons. Toran has never spent more than a few weeks off the practice squad since going undrafted two years ago, and he would’ve had a $675,000 base salary this season if he made the Patriots’ roster.
Bolden has made $7.7 million in his career and was set to earn a $1 million base salary. Cannon has earned $30.1 million playing football.