Russell Okung battled serious health issues in his final year with the Chargers and strongly considered opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. The new Panthers left tackle starter is now weighing retirement, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.
The 31-year-old tackle suffered a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots last year. The Chargers traded him to the Panthers for Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner in March.
One season remains on the four-year, $53MM contract Okung signed in 2017. He is set to make $13MM in base salary this season. If Okung deems the football environment unsafe this season, Fowler notes he is comfortable walking away. The former Seahawks first-round pick has played 10 NFL seasons.
Okung was a logical opt-out candidate and would have almost certainly received the $350K stipend for players who face higher risk of complications were they to contract the coronavirus. But he remains on Carolina’s active roster.
The Panthers lost both their guards from the 2019 season — Turner and Greg Van Roten — but return both players who primarily started at right tackle — Taylor Moton and second-year blocker Dennis Daley. Former tackle starter Daryl Williams left in free agency and is now with the Bills.
Should Okung walk away from the game, it would continue an exodus of veterans to leave the rebuilding Panthers this year. Luke Kuechly retired, while the team cut nine-year stalwarts Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. Mario Addison signed with the Bills, while James Bradberry defected to the Giants. An Okung departure would certainly be different, considering he was acquired after Matt Rhule took over.
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