Filling The Voids Left By Key NFL Opt Outs

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.

Buffalo Bills

  • 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.

Chicago Bears

  • 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.

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • 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

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.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • 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.
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18 comments on “Filling The Voids Left By Key NFL Opt Outs

  1. deal1122

    I seriously doubt the Steelers would trade Washington to MIA when they’re clearly in win-now mode with an aging Ben

    • wagner13

      I don’t think it would be that outrageous. The Steelers have a surplus at receiver and could use some future draft capital to prepare for when Ben retires

      • deal1122

        After watching this offense last year, they’re gonna need all the firepower they can get. He showed some bright flashes, and I’d love to see them run some more 5 wide like they did in 2018

        • bravesfan88

          Plus, one thing quite a few people are forgetting is how J.Washington and Big Ben were quickly developing some solid onfield chemistry before Ben went down.

          I expect Big Ben and James Washington to have a solid 2020 season..Washington, with some more consistency, could really break out, and he very well could step up into that real #1b #2 option they need alongside JuJu..

          • deal1122

            I think Diontae Johnson takes that toll this year. He looked great last year

    • forwhomjoshbelltolls

      There is almost no way they can afford JuJu’s next contract.

      Washington isn’t great, but they’ll need him until they get something better long term.

      • deal1122

        I’m planning on juju being gone next year unfortunately. The brinks truck will be backed up for TJ Watt

  2. TrollHunter

    I can’t believe so many fringe players are opting out!

    Solely from a career standpoint, many of these guys might not make it back! Damien Williams for example, will probably never have another chance to start.

    I get that many of these guys are worried about vulnerable family members, but opting out is dumb if they still gona shop, go places, and basically leave their house.

    Seems to me that this pandemic is showing how dumb this country really is. Many are taking no precautions at all, not wearing masks, partying, etc. While others don’t get that it makes no sense to take extreme precautions in one facet of life means nothing if your not doing it in ALL aspects!

    NFL players (and everyone else for that matter) should be going to work and reasonably living their lives, while taking as many reasonable precautions as possible. Let’s cut out bars, strip clubs, vacations, and parties.

    • echozulu88

      What if your a bartender at a strip club that also plans parties and vacations?

    • AndyMeyer

      Everyone else for that matter should be going back to work and reasonably living their lives; except for musicians (myself included), bartenders, bar backs, in house staff, club owners, strippers, bouncers, etc
      So you really don’t mean everyone. I’ll continue to try and live “reasonably”. Thanks for the advice

      • crosseyedlemon

        Hope your having a good summer Andy. Do you have link to your music? It’s not self promotion if your responding to a request so the rules should allow that.

      • TrollHunter

        All of those people make up a very small portion of the 330 million people in the US. I’m also fairly certain you knew I was referring to the general “everyone” and not the Gary Oldman “EVERY-ONE!”

        I get that it’s unfair and sucks if you work in an industry that’s simply to unsafe to function right now, but sometimes life sucks and it’s rarely fair.

        As a side note, have you thought about starting something like an “online” bar/club? I’m thinking of something where several residents of a neighborhood or town can log in to watch you perform live at home! You could invite them to drink and party together with you, but safely at home! It might sound like a dumb idea, but I guarantee there is a way to monetize something like that.

  3. DarkSide830

    i wonder if Howie could snatch something of value for one of the team’s late round recievers with a team like GB needing some. maybe a round or two upgrade on where they were picked.

  4. case7187

    The pats also have 2nd rounder Joejuan Williams to also fill the safety role or even the Chung hybrid role of LB/S role

  5. wagner13

    Can’t the Giants just plug in Fleming at right tackle and shift Thomas to the blindside? Glenn doesn’t seem like he’s especially healthy at the moment.

    I doubt the Eagles go after a receiver with so many currently on the roster. Reagor can immediately take over as a speedy deep threat, while Hightower and Watkins deserve a chance as well. Let the kids play!

    I think the most impacted teams will be New England, Chicago, and Minnesota. There’s few available options to replicate the stout run defense of Goldman and Pierce. Meanwhile, the Patriots will need to adjust to life without both their starting right tackle and most versatile linebacker

  6. crosseyedlemon

    You don’t last in the NFL as long as Belichick and Reid have without knowing how to fill roster voids.

  7. GuapoGordo

    Why is the section on the Chiefs missing Lucas Niang? I guess a rookie mid-round tackle project doesn’t leave much of a void, but still…

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