The NFL and NFL Players Association recently agreed to a player opt-out clause for the 2020 season because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Players had until 4 p.m. Aug. 6 to decide to voluntarily opt out for the season.
Players with higher-risk health conditions, as agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA, can voluntarily opt out for this season. Those players receive $350,000, an accrued season toward free agency, and their contracts will toll to the next season.
Players without any underlying conditions can also voluntarily opt out as part of the agreement. Those players will receive $150,000 and their contracts will toll to the next season, but they won’t receive an accrued season toward free agency.
Here are the players who have opted to sit out the 2020 season. Players are sorted by team and include fantasy analysis when warranted.
Voluntary Player Opt-Outs
Marcus Gilbert (OT) — Gilbert’s decision to opt out is a bit of blow for a Cardinals roster that’s yet to solidify its right tackle spot. Gilbert missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL after the Cardinals traded a sixth-round pick for him during the 2018 off-season, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever play again since he’ll be 33 years old next winter. Third-round pick Josh Jones will have pressure to win the starting job as a rookie, and he’ll be competing with Justin Murray for the starting job after he started 12 games last season. Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake fantasy outlooks aren’t hurt by Gilbert’s decision to opt out, but it does give the Cardinals fewer options at their biggest trouble spot along their O-line.
None of note.
Andre Smith (OT)
De’Anthony Thomas (KR)
Star Lotulelei (DT) -- Lotulelei leaves a big hole both literally and figuratively, as Buffalo was counting on him to help out second-year DT Ed Oliver (who came on strong in the second half of last season). However, seeing as how the Bills D is a bit of a “Panther party” (DC Leslie Frazier was with Carolina while Lotulelei was a Panther), it stands to reason that former-Panther and DT/DE Vernon Butler would be poised to slide into the DLT spot next to Oliver. Newly-signed Quinten Jefferson should also see some snaps there as well. What little fantasy value would come from the spot next to Oliver will likely be split between Butler and Jefferson, with Butler the early favorite.
E.J. Gaines (CB) -- Gaines was on track to compete with Josh Norman and Taron Johnson for the 3rd CB role behind Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace. With Gaines opting out, Norman’s chances of seeing snaps have improved. This news comes to the delight of many NFL quarterbacks, hoping to exploit Norman’s soft cushion as of late. Perhaps Norman can recapture his magic from his early days with newly-reunited DC Leslie Frazier. Is this a blurb about Gaines or Norman? The answer is yes.
Jordan Mack (LB) -- Mack had an outside shot at making the team after being signed as an UDFA, but with very little offseason, his prospects of contributing as a starter weren’t great. With veterans Tahir Whitehead and Shaq Thompson locked in as the starting ILBs, and solid backups in Jermaine Carter and Christian Miller having more experience under their belts, Mack will cash in his slim chances and take the year off to possibly give it another go in 2021.
Christian Miller (LB)
Eddie Goldman (DT) -- Another nose tackle opts out, as one of the better (and underappreciated) DTs will leave a talented Chicago D-line looking to their bench. Luckily, the Bears are deep here, as a combination of run-stuffing Bilal Nichols and pass-rushing Roy Robertson-Harris should take the sting out of Goldman’s absence.
Josh Tupou (DT) -- WIth the offseason addition of underrated gap-plugger D.J. Reader, Tupou was bound to see a decrease from his 465 snaps last season. That number has apparently dropped to 0 snaps with the news of his opt out. This could force Geno Atkins to keep his snap count high, which is good news for fantasy owners, and bad news of opposing QBs. Reader will help Atkins avoid double-teams, and with the 32-year-old not having as much behind him for help, he should stay on the field plenty to be productive.
Andrew Billings (DT)
Drew Forbes (OG)
Drake Dorbeck (OT)
Colby Gossett (OG)
Malcolm Pridgeon (OG)
Jamize Olawale (FB)
Maurice Canady (CB) -- Canady’s value largely rests in his special teams chops, as the Cowboys invested in corners in the 2nd and 4th round in this year’s draft. Dallas would have been Canady’s third team in the last two years, playing with the Jets and Ravens last season. He started three games in 2019 but would have been buried on the depth chart in Big D.
Stephen Guidry (WR)
Ju’Wuan James (OT)
Kyle Peko (DT) -- Perhaps the DTAA - the Defensive Tackle Association of America - held a Zoom meeting and encouraged nose tackles everywhere to opt out. Sadly, there is no such organization (or is there??), but Peko does join fellow DTs Eddie Goldman, Star Lotulelei, Eddie Vanderdoes, Michael Pierce, and Caleb Brantley so far in opting out. Peko’s wife battled Hodgkins’ Lymphoma last year, and Peko was expected to be contributing off the bench. More will be asked of Mike Purcell, but the fantasy uptick will go to new Bronco Jurrell Casey, who should see a few more snaps without as much veteran relief behind him as originally thought.
Geronimo Allison (WR)
John Atkins (DT) - Atkins played 400 snaps for Matt Patricia last season, following Patricia from New England and filling in valuable snaps with the departures of Damon Harrison and Mike Daniels. Once stacked on the defensive interior, the Lions now find themselves scrambling for talent at DT. It’s possible that they lean on Da’Shawn Hand for more interior snaps (though that hasn’t proven fruitful in the past), or Nick Williams and Jonathan Wynn may see increased roles.
Green Bay Packers
Devin Funchess (WR) — Funchess will basically miss his second straight season after playing just one game with the Colts in 2019 because of a collarbone injury in the season opener. The Packers had a glaring weakness at wide receiver this off-season and Funchess’ addition was the only move the organization made to address the position. Allen Lazard is now in the driver’s seat to be the #2 WR for Aaron Rodgers, and he’s looking like a bargain right now with an ADP of 182 in NFFC drafts.
TE Jace Sternberger’s ADP sits just one spot lower and his outlook continues to look promising at such a low price, especially with Funchess now out of the picture. Davante Adams’ outlook hasn’t changed much based on Funchess’ decision since we were already expecting him to challenge for the league lead in targets this season. Don’t forget about Marquez Valdes-Scantling if you’re drafting in deeper formats, as well. He was the favorite to be the #2 WR in Green Bay last season, and he was being selected in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts before catching just five passes in his final nine games after Lazard overtook him. MVS is the most talented WR option behind Adams, which isn’t saying much, but there’s a chance the switch flips on for him heading into his third season.
Eddie Vanderdoes (DT) -- Vanderdoes was a contributor late in 2019 (starting 3 games) and was expected to compete for snaps this preseason. With preseason evaporating, Vanderdoes faced an uphill battle for snaps, and elected to sit out the season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Texans picked up DT Albert Huggins off waivers in a corresponding move. Huggins was on Houston’s practice squad for a bit last season, so he’s familiar with the defense. Brandon Dunn is the likely starter, but Charles Omenihu can also rotate inside at times.
Marvell Tell (S)
Rolan Milligan (S)
Al Woods (DT) -- There were rumors abound of the Jags switching to a 3-4 this offseason, but the team has repeatedly stated that wasn’t the plan. Woods was likely an early-down rotational player for Jax this season, but that is on hold while Woods opts out of the 2020 season. This should give more snaps to third-year DT Taven Bryan. Bryan was a high-upside pick for Jacksonville, and finally started showing some of that promise last season. It’s up to him and Abry Jones now to plug the middle.
Rashaan Melvin (CB)
Lerentee McCoy (DT)
Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Williams (RB) — The first huge fantasy domino fell from the player opt-out clause with Williams deciding to forego the 2020 season. We already had Clyde Edwards-Helaire as our RB14 in our latest projections, but he’ll at least slide into our top-10 at the position in our next update. The Chiefs told the world they were going to eventually use CEH as a bellcow back this season by using a first-round pick on him, but his time as the lead back is going to come much sooner than expected with Williams sitting out.
Our Scott Barrett pointed out that Damien Williams averaged 25.0 fantasy points per game in the 11 games he saw 60% of the snaps the last two seasons. Edwards-Helaire has a chance to regularly see a 60% snap share or better this season even if the Chiefs do bring in another back. Fantasy drafters should start to consider drafting Edwards-Helaire as a mid-to-late first-round pick. They should also consider drafting DeAndre Washington toward the end of drafts while also taking chances on Devonta Freeman in the mid-to-late rounds just in case Brett Veach and Andy Reid consider adding the former Falcons RB to fill Williams’ spot.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (OG) — LDT announced that he’ll sit out this season to work as a doctor on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in his hometown of Montreal. The Chiefs lost just one offensive starter from last year’s Super Bowl winning team but it happened to also be at offensive guard with Stefen Wisniewski leaving for Pittsburgh. The Chiefs didn’t waste any time after LDT’s decision as they went out and signed Kelechi Osemele to a one-year deal to help the depth of this O-line. Duvernay-Tardif’s decision won’t change the preseason outlooks for Patrick Mahomes and Clyde Edwards-Helaire/Damien Williams, but interior O-line play will be one area of concern for a team with few issues heading into the season.
Lucas Niang (OT)
Las Vegas Raiders
None of note.
Los Angeles Chargers
None of note.
Los Angeles Rams
Chandler Brewer (OG)
Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns (WRs) — The Dolphins were dealt a bit of a blow with their #3 and #4 WRs deciding to opt out this season. DeVante Parker and Preston Williams are the clear top two options at the position with a big dropoff to Jakeem Grant, Mack Hollins, and Isaiah Ford behind them. It’s more important than ever before for Williams to be healthy and ready to play immediately, and he at least avoided the PUP list to start camp and he was cleared for football activities. The Dolphins are cautiously optimistic he’ll be ready to play in Week 1 as they ease him back into the mix.
Hurns and Wilson will vacate a combined 109 targets, 75 catches, 767 receiving yards, and three touchdowns from last season. The Dolphins could be in the market for a veteran free agent WR after losing both Wilson and Hurns. Williams remains an exceptional late-round value while we may have to reconsider our stances on Parker and Mike Gesicki, who are two players we’ve been avoiding in drafts. Both Wilson and Hurns played a lot of the slot last season so Gesicki could lead all TEs in slot rate for the second straight season.
Michael Pierce (DT) — Pierce has battled asthma and also had a strong bout of pneumonia during his time with the Ravens. Add to that the news of Minnesota’s athletic trainer testing positive for COVID-19 and it’s not hard to see why Pierce made the “heartbreaking” decision to opt out of the 2020 NFL season. Pierce was signed to replace Linval Joseph, but now that task will likely fall to Jaleel Johnson and/or Armon Watts. The Vikings could also shuffle their line and welcome back DE Everson Griffen or another free agent to help fill a massive hole on an otherwise stacked D-line.
New England Patriots
Dont’a Hightower (LB), Patrick Chung (S), and Brandon Bolden (RB) — The Patriots have been hit by far the hardest by the voluntary opt-outs, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Hightower is the biggest loss on defense as the Patriots have now lost four of their top five linebackers from last season. Third-year player Ja’Whaun Bentley is expected to be the next man up at inside linebacker. Chung’s loss won’t hurt nearly as much as Hightower’s departure since the Patriots signed Adrian Phillips and drafted Kyle Dugger this off-season.
We’ve moved New England down from third in our D/ST rankings to fifth after the departures of Hightower and Chung. Bolden’s loss will be felt on the special teams this season. The opt-outs did create more than $16 million in 2020 cap space, giving the Patriots more than $24 million in room to potentially spend on free agents to replenish their roster. We’ll see if the Patriots make a play for some big names that are still on the market like Jadeveon Clowney, Logan Ryan, Eric Reid, or Cordy Glenn.
Marcus Cannon (RT) and Danny Vitale (FB) — Sony Michel and Cam Newton took slight hits to their fantasy outlooks with cancer-survivor Cannon and fullback Vitale opting not to play this season. The Patriots have had one of the best O-lines in recent seasons, but their depth will be tested this season, especially with legendary OL coach Dante Scarnecchia once again retiring this off-season. The Patriots are once again scrambling at fullback after James Develin and Jakob Johnson’s injuries last season forced New England to play LB Elandon Roberts at fullback at the end of last season. H-back Dalton Keene, a 2019 third-round pick, and Johnson are the next men up to pave the way for Michel and Damien Harris this season. RB Brandon Bolden’s loss will also be felt on the special teams this season.
Matt LaCosse (TE) — The Patriots already had one of the weakest tight end depth charts heading into training camp, and LaCosse’s decision to opt out will leave them even thinner. It looks like third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene will get thrown right into the fire as rookie. Keene could work more as an H-back after FB Danny Vitale opted out, as well, meaning Asiasi could be asked to fill an every-down role as the top inline TE. He’s currently projected as our TE40, and he could be an August riser if we get some positive camp reports about his progress. The Patriots have also expressed interest in veteran FA Delanie Walker.
Marquise Lee (WR)
Najee Toran (OL)
New Orleans Saints
Cole Wick (TE)
Jason Vander Laan (TE)
New York Giants
Nate Solder (OT) — Solder was a high-risk opt-out as a testicular cancer survivor, and his young son is also currently battling cancer. It’s a blow for a Giants O-line that saw a major makeover this off-season after they spent a first- and a third-round pick on offensive tackles. Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick, could now start his career at left tackle now with free-agent signee Cameron Fleming now the favorite to play right tackle. Third-round pick Matt Peart was seen as a developmental pick, but he could have the chance to play early now. Thomas and Peart won’t have the 32-year-old Solder to mentor them during their first seasons in the league.
Solder’s loss certainly isn’t a positive for the Giants, but it’s hard to tell just how much he’ll be missed. According to PFF, Solder was coming off the worst season of his career after allowing 11 sacks and 36 QB hurries. Daniel Jones was under pressure on 41.7% of his dropbacks last season, which was behind only Sam Darnold last season (41.9%). Solder’s decision to opt out is certainly a reason to be concerned for Jones and Saquon Barkley, but it shouldn’t alter their current draft statuses unless we get word in August that Thomas and Fleming are struggling in camp since they’re now thinner at the position.
Da’Mari Scott (WR)
Sam Beal (CB)
New York Jets
C.J. Mosley (LB) -- This one is gonna hurt. The Jets D sorely missed Mosley when he went down last season. A clown car full of LBs failed to get the job done, and we may see more of the same this season. The fate of this defense may rest in Avery Williamson’s hands, or knee more accurately. Williamson’s ACL tear last season along with Mosley’s injury was a 1-2 death punch that proved to be too much. If Williamson - who hasn’t fully recovered and is a $6.5 Million cap issue - can’t help out, then the Jets will be leaning heavily on a generally underperforming crew of Blake Cashman, Neville Hewitt, Patrick Onwuasor, and Neville Hewitt. If there’s good news for IDP owners, it comes in the form of Bradley McDougald. The veteran “throw-in” from the Jamal Adams trade is most effective playing in the box, so if Ashtyn Davis can see early snaps deep with Marcus Maye, Gang Green’s best LB might be McDougald.
Josh Doctson (WR)
Leo Koloamatangi (C)
Marquise Goodwin (WR) — The Eagles infused plenty of speed into their wide receiving corps during the draft by selecting speedsters Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins and by trading for Goodwin on Day Three of the draft. Goodwin is putting his family first this fall after his wife gave birth to a baby girl this year after the couple endured multiple miscarriages. Hightower and Watkins will have better chances to make the roster and to see more playing time with Goodwin deciding to sit out the season. Goodwin’s decision to opt out puts more pressure on DeSean Jackson to stay healthy and on Reagor to make an impact as a rookie since Hightower and Watkins will be long shots to make an impact this season.
None of note.
San Francisco 49ers
Travis Benjamin (SF) — The 49ers continue to take blows to their WR depth chart with Benjamin opting to sit out this season. GM John Lynch said at the end of July that Deebo Samuel (Jones foot fracture) could miss time at the start of the season while Richie James started training camp on the active/NFI list as he’s still recovering from off-season wrist surgery. Rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk is a player to target toward the end of your drafts as well as Jalen Hurd and slot WR Trent Taylor in deeper formats.
Chance Warmack (OG)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brad Seaton (OT)
Anthony McKinney (OL)
Washington Football Team
Caleb Brantley (DT) - Brantley opted out of the season via the “high-risk” option. We had him projected as the 4th or 5th option at DT for a ridiculously-stacked D-line. Brantley hasn’t logged a meaningful stat since his rookie year in 2017, when he amassed 2 sacks and 18 tackles. Needless to say, the studs on this line aren’t likely to feel his loss unless several injuries occur.
Josh Harvey-Clemons (ILB)