We still have a long way to go before the official opt out deadline passes- at a minimum it will be 7 days from the day I write this- but let’s look at where things are right now with the NFL.
Thus far officially there are 31 opt outs out of about 2,700 active player contracts in the NFL. Official means players who have given actual notice not simply reports that a player will opt out such even if the report comes from the player himself. Those players can still change their mind so we are not including them at the moment.
The Patriots lead the way with 5 opt outs far and away the most in the NFL. The next closest team has two opt outs. 10 teams have no official opt outs. They are the 49ers, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins, Falcons, Raiders, Seahawks, and Steelers.
This list is different than the players who have been placed on the special Covid-reserve lists for either testing positive or quarantining because they came in contact with someone who was positive. 68 players are on that list, about 2.5% of all NFL players. A few have come off the list already and one has even been released. The Lions and Vikings lead the NFL with 7 players. The teams with no players currently on the list are the Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, Panthers, Texans, Cardinals, Chargers, and Seahawks.
I would expect the opt out list to grow when the details are finalized. As the rules stand right now there is a major financial risk to players with large guaranteed salaries this year who are locks to remain on the team in 2021 and/or 2022 regardless of guaranteed contract status. The risk comes from a season in which 16 games are not played as those players would basically just be forfeiting salary. On an opt out their full salary would transfer to 2021.
The drawback to the opt out is taking one more year to get to free agency but for non-rookies the odds are likely against that third contract anyway. Even for players on one year deals or at the end of their current contract the free agency delay may not be that bad since money is expected to be tight in 2021. This is dependent on the level of player (Ive held the belief that superstars are covid proof but the mid tier players earning say $4-9M per year are not), but should be a consideration. The NFLPA did a good job in getting solid options for their players here but hopefully this is being communicated to them.
Teams have saved a good amount of cap room, based on the rules we were told are likely to happen (all is subject to the final agreement so this can change) which can be rolled over to next year. Here is the list of savings thus far based on the official opt outs.
Finally here is the list of players who have opted out of the season.
|Player||Team||Original Cap Number|
|Caleb Brantley||Football Team||$750,000|
|Jason Vander Laan||Saints||$675,000|
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.