Brandon Bolden

2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker

Per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, players with COVID-19 health concerns can opt out of the 2020 season. Initially, the deadline was believed to be Tuesday, August 4. Talks between the league and the union have pushed it to August 6.

Chiefs guard and medical school graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to officially opt out. Scores of players followed.

Here’s the rundown, so far:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • T Brad Seaton

Tennessee Titans

  • OL Anthony McKinney

Washington Football Team

Free agents

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower To Opt Out Of 2020 Season

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower will opt out of the 2020 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Hightower wrestled with the decision, but ultimately decided to skip the season in order to protect his 2-week-old son. 

Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” Hightower explained.

With that, Hightower becomes the fifth Patriots player to opt out. Running back Brandon Bolden, right tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale, and guard Najee Toran have also decided against playing. Hightower is the highest profile player of the Pats bunch, and one of the more notable players league-wide to opt out.

Hightower was slated to make $8MM in base salary before reaching free agency in March. Now, his contract will toll, with that final year being moved to 2021. With Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts out of the picture, the Patriots were counting on Hightower to hold down the fort at linebacker. There aren’t a ton of impact off-ball linebackers left on the open market, so the Patriots will likely have to work with what they have on hand.

Hightower, 30, has been a staple in the Patriots’ starting lineup since entering the league in 2012. Injuries aside – including a mostly lost 2017 – he’s served as the club’s locker room leader and the point guard of the defense. Last year, Hightower earned his second Pro Bowl trip and even managed 5.5 sacks from the middle.

Hightower’s opt-out falls under the “voluntary” label, meaning that he’s entitled to a $150K salary advance (likely negated by his 2020 earnings to date). Cannon, meanwhile, is “higher risk,” which means he’ll get a $350K stipend (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Cannon had two years to go on his current deal with a total of $9.5MM in base pay. His contract will also toll, with his 2020 season being bumped up to 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Foles, Tate, Crowder, Desir

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed NFL contracts:

Patriots To Re-Sign John Simon, Sign Brandon Bolden

The Patriots are set to re-sign John Simon on a brand new deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s a two-year contract, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets.

Meanwhile, the Pats are also reuniting with another familiar face. Running back Branden Bolden, lauded for his special teams work, will return to New England on a two-year deal, Rapoport tweets. Bolden spent last season with the rival Dolphins but will return to the place where he made his name. Bolden logged just eight carries for 91 yards and three catches for 13 yards with Miami last year, but appeared in 66% of the Fins’ special teams plays.

Simon signed a three-year, $14MM deal with the Colts in 2017, but he was cut just prior to the 2018 season. A few weeks later, he found a new home with the Patriots. In eleven games, Simon tallied two sacks and 17 tackles, playing mostly in a reserve role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Sign RB Brandon Bolden

The Dolphins are signing longtime New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).

To make room on the roster for Bolden, the team cut center Travis Swanson, who was just signed yesterday. Bolden will get to continue his career in the AFC East, as he spent his first six seasons in New England before being released at final cuts on Saturday.

The Ole Miss product improbably made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent back in 2012, and stuck up until now, a remarkable feat for an undrafted player. He became a core special teams player during his time in New England, as well as handling a significant amount of carries his first few seasons.

In total, he rushed 216 times for 912 yards, good for 4.2 yards per carry, with six touchdowns with the Patriots. He also caught 47 passes for 373 yards and two more touchdowns. He’ll join a Dolphins running backs room that includes Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, and rookie Kalen Ballage.

Patriots Make Roster Cuts

The Patriots are the latest team to move to 53 players by making the following transactions:

Placed on injured reserve:

Cut:

New England kept only three true wide receivers on its initial roster, meaning the club will almost surely be searching for more options on the waiver wire.

Patriots, RB Brandon Bolden Agree To Extension

The Patriots are bringing back one of their special teams aces for another season. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the team has signed running back Brandon Bolden to a one-year, $880K deal. The contract has $170K in guaranteed money, including a $60K signing bonus and $110K of the $790K salary (via the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin). His cap number will be at $720K.

Brandon Bolden (vertical)The 2012 undrafted free agent out of Mississippi has spent his entire six-year career in New England, appearing in at least 10 games each season. Recently, Bolden’s contributed mostly on special teams, as ESPN’s Mike Reiss notes (via Twitter) that the running back only played 42 offensive snaps this past season (including 34 in the regular season finale). The 28-year-old ultimately finished the campaign with a career-high eight tackles to along with 67 rushing yards. His best offensive season came during his sophomore campaign, when he rushed for 271 yards and three scores on 55 carries while also hauling in 21 receptions for 152 yards.

While the Patriots have locked up Bolden, Volin points out that the team still has a handful of “key special teamers” who are hitting free agency. The grouping includes Pro Bowler Matt Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Marquis Flowers and Johnson Bademosi.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots To Place LB Shea McClellin On IR

The Patriots are placing linebacker Shea McClellin on injured reserve, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates. The nature of his injury is currently unknown. Shea McClellin (vertical)

McClellin missed most of the preseason with his mystery ailment. Whatever the issue is, it won’t rule him out for the year as he remains a candidate for one of the team’s IR-DTR spots.

McClellin, a former first-round pick of the Bears, signed a three-year, $9MM deal with the Patriots in 2016. He appeared in 441 snaps for New England last year and made some athletic plays, including his memorable leap over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal against the Ravens in December.

To fill his spot on the roster, the Patriots re-signed running back Brandon Bolden. He had just just one carry last season and spent the bulk of his time on special teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots To Cut RB Brandon Bolden

When the Patriots finally release their initial 53-man roster, Brandon Bolden won’t be on it. The running back has been released, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Brandon Bolden (vertical)

Bolden re-signed with the Patriots in April, but his spot was shaky from the get-go. The Patriots added Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to the fold this year, giving him an uphill climb as he battled with a group including fellow incumbents James White and Dion Lewis.

Bolden had just one carry last season with four targets. He was more of a special teams guy in New England and it seems possible that he could return at some point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Texans, Patriots, Jets

After Texans running back D’Onta Foreman‘s arrest on charges of marijuana and unlawful gun possession last Sunday, his attorney, Chip Lewis, claimed that the rookie didn’t “use or possess” the drug. To help clear himself of wrongdoing, Foreman was voluntarily tested for marijuana, and the results came back negative, according to Lewis (via Mark Berman of FOX 26). “It makes it clear that he was telling the truth,” Lewis said of the outcome. “He was not using marijuana.” Foreman has a July 31 court date, though there’s reportedly a strong likelihood of a postponement because the Texans will be at training camp in West Virginia then.

  • Patriots running back Dion Lewis may have to fight for a roster spot this summer, Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com points out, but colleague Tom Curran says it would be a mistake for the team to cut him if he’s healthy (video link). Fellow back Brandon Bolden should be in greater jeopardy, as he offers little offensively, opines Curran. Lewis has provided solid production as both a runner and pass catcher when on the field during his two-year New England stint, having averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 113 attempts and totaled 53 receptions, but he hasn’t appeared much. A torn ACL in 2015 and the subsequent recovery process kept Lewis out of action for nine games in each of the previous two regular seasons. Releasing Lewis would save the Pats all but $200K of his $1.49MM cap hit, and they’d still have a capable group of backs with Mike Gillislee, James White and Rex Burkhead leading the way.
  • Having moved on from a cavalcade of veterans in recent months, it may look as though the Jets are tanking, but it’s just a full-scale rebuild, contends Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Tanking is “almost impossible” to pull off in the NFL, argues Vacchiano, who writes that a top 10 to 15 selection in next year’s draft may be the best-case scenario for the club. Picking that late could mean the Jets found an answer at quarterback in Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder in 2016 who didn’t take the field as a rookie, and saw a slew of other young players emerge as legitimate building blocks. It’s more likely, though, that they’ll end up with a top five pick, potentially putting them in position to find a franchise QB, observes Vacchiano.
  • More on the Jets, whose deal with first-round pick Jamal Adams contains offsets, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter).

Zach Links contributed to this post.