67 NFL players have decided to opt out from the 2020 NFL campaign due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly every team was affected, as only the Steelers, Chargers, and Falcons didn’t have a player who elected to sit out.
Some players’ absences will be felt more than others. Teams that are losing starters or other key pieces of their roster will feel an outsized impact during the upcoming campaign. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most important players who are opting out in 2020, and how their respective clubs could look to replace them for the season ahead.
- Opted out: DT Star Lotulelei
- Filling the void: Aside from possibly Jerry Hughes, the Bills don’t necessarily have a star along their defensive line, but general manager Brandon Beane has built one of the deepest front fours in the NFL. On the interior specifically, Buffalo will turn to Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler, Harrison Phillips, and Vincent Taylor to play more snaps opposite 2019 first-round pick Ed Oliver. Jefferson, who inked a two-year, $13.8MM deal to leave the Seahawks, is a top-notch run-stuffer but also notched 39 pressures in just 589 snaps a year ago. He is the favorite to soak up the majority of Lotulelei’s projected playing time.
- Opted out: DT Eddie Goldman
- Filling the void: Goldman is something of a relic, a true 3-4 nose tackle in a league that no longer prioritizes that potion. The Bears thought of enough of Goldman’s recent efforts to reward him with a four-year, $42MM extension in 2018, but they’ll have to go without him for the 2020 campaign. Chicago will likely first look internally to replace Goldman, and John Jenkins is an underrated player who could surprise in extended action. But if the Bears go to the free agent market, Damon Harrison could be of interest, as the 31-year-old has indicated he’s open to continuing his career.
Green Bay Packers
- Opted out: WR Devin Funchess
- Filling the void: To many, it was nearly inconceivable the Packers didn’t use a single draft pick on a wide receiver, and it could be even more unthinkable if Green Bay doesn’t acquire another pass-catcher now that Funchess has opted out. Taylor Gabriel is probably the best free agent wideout left on the market, but a trade could make even more sense for the Packers. Veterans like Kenny Stills (Texans) and Keelan Cole (Jaguars) may be available, but a more intriguing option may be Broncos second-year WR DaeSean Hamilton, who could be without a role after Denver drafted both Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler earlier this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Opted out: G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RB Damien Williams
- Filling the void: The defending champions have already made one low-cost move in an attempt to replace Duvernay-Tardif, inking former All-Pro Kelechi Osemele to a one-year pact reportedly worth up to $2MM. Osemele is now 31 years old and hasn’t been fully healthy in a few years, but he’s as good a guard as a club is going to find on the open market at this point in the summer. The loss of Williams will sting as well, but Kansas City spent its first-round pick on fellow running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who now figures to take the lion’s share of the Chiefs’ backfield action.
- Opted out: WR Allen Hurns, WR Albert Wilson
- Filling the void: Not only are both Hurns and Wilson opting out for 2020, but it’s unclear if 2019 breakout Preston Williams will be available for the start of the season after tearing his ACL in November. The Dolphins are already working to burnish their wide receiver corps, meeting with both Ricardo Louis and Chester Rogers earlier today. But if Miami wants to take a chance on an option with more upside, it could contact the Steelers about 2018 second-rounder James Washington, who could see a reduced role in 2020 behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool.
- Opted out: DT Michael Pierce
- Filling the void: The Vikings lured Pierce away from the Ravens on a three-year, $27MM deal with the hope that he’d replace Linval Joseph, who defected to the Chargers. Now, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, and Jalyn Holmes are the top-three options to start at defneisve tackle. Minnesota will likely turn to the free agent market to add another body, and former No. 3 overall selection Marcell Dareus could make for a solid Pierce replacement. Dareus missed most of last season with an injury and doesn’t offer much a pass-rusher, but he could fill Pierce’s projected role as a run-stuffer.
New England Patriots
- Opted out: T Marcus Cannon, S Patrick Chung, LB Dont’a Hightower
- Filling the void: The Patriots were hit harder by opt outs than any other team, and the losses of Cannon, Chung, and Hightower will all be felt. There aren’t a ton of right tackle options available, so New England might look at a reunion with LaAdrian Waddle or give the starting job to internal options Korey Cunningham or Yodny Cajuste. The Patriots may be fine at safety even after losing Chung, as Adrian Phillips and second-round rookie Kyle Duggar can slot in opposite Devin McCourty. At linebacker, New England could take a chance on a player that gets cut later this offseason such as Haason Reddick or Denzel Perryman.
New York Giants
- Opted out: T Nate Solder
- Filling the void: The Giants have a ready-made replacement for Solder in first-round pick Andrew Thomas, whom New York made the first offensive lineman to be chosen within the top-four overall selections since 2014. Thomas should step in immediately on Daniel Jones‘ blindside, leaving right tackle as the biggest question on the Giants’ offensive line. Fellow rookie Matt Peart is now projected to take over on the right side, and he’s probably the best option for Big Blue unless they want to invest in an older free agent like Cordy Glenn.
New York Jets
- Opted out: LB C.J. Mosley
- Filling the void: Not only is Mosley out for the 2020 season, but fellow veteran linebacker Avery Williamson could be traded or released. Perhaps the Jets will be more amenable to retaining Williamson now that Mosley has opted out, but either way, it probably doesn’t make sense for general manager Joe Douglas to use draft capital or cap space to bring in another ‘backer. The Jets don’t look like 2020 contenders, and after trading safety Jamal Adams, the club is looking towards the future. New York should see what 2019 fifth-rounder Blake Cashman can do with more playing time rather than acquiring a veteran.
- Opted out: WR Marquise Goodwin
- Filling the void: The Eagles spent all offseason acquiring weapons for Carson Wentz, spending three draft picks on wideouts (including first-rounder Jalen Reagor) while also trading for Goodwin, who had fallen out of favor in San Francisco. Clearly, Philadelphia was looking for more speed in picking up Goodwin, but another trade candidate could offer the same sort of game-breaking ability. Robert Foster posted 541 yards for the Bills in 2018, but wasn’t a part of Buffalo’s offense last season and certainly won’t be in 2020 after the club added Stefon Diggs. The Eagles could likely pick him up for a late-round draft selection.