Patrick Mahomes may have a lot more money entering the 2020 season, when he and the Kansas City Chiefs will look to defend their Super Bowl title. But the MVP quarterback will be without at least two fellow offensive starters from K.C.'s 2019 title run. Days after right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to publicly opt out of the upcoming season as a result of COVID-19 concerns, running back Damien Williams has also declared he'll sit out the 2020 campaign, as the Chiefs announced Wednesday.
"As an organization, we certainly understand and respect Damien's choice, knowing it was made in the best interest of his family," general manager Brett Veach said in a statement. "He means a lot to our football team as a player and a person, and we're going to miss having him around this season."
Williams himself doesn't appear to fall under the NFL's "high-risk" designation as an opt-out. On Thursday, however, he explained why he'll be skipping the season: His mother was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. (The CDC lists cancer as a factor for increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.) Williams also has a wife and young daughter at home.
"It was hard," the RB told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "My mom is my rock, my everything ... My mom, she just was like, 'Whatever decision (you make), I'm behind you' ... Football is my life, especially coming off a championship and wanting to do a repeat -- which, you know, I know they're gonna handle that. But at the end of the day, this was something personal."
Under the NFL's revised collective bargaining agreement, players can decide to skip the 2020 season even if they don't meet the criteria to be considered at risk for a severe COVID-19 illness; they simply receive a $150,000 advance on their contract, which tolls for a season, instead of a $350,000 stipend.
Williams has never started a full season, appearing in a career-high six games as a No. 1 RB for Kansas City in 2019, but he's fresh off an MVP-caliber performance in Super Bowl LIV, in which he led both the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers with 104 rushing yards. Originally an undrafted addition of the Miami Dolphins, the 28-year-old veteran established himself as the top back in coach Andy Reid's rotation down the stretch in 2019, totaling 290 yards and six touchdowns in Kansas City's three playoff games.
Williams' absence has big implications on the Chiefs' offense, not to mention in fantasy football. Without Williams on the RB depth chart, first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire is likely to see his stock rise, possibly into the first round of drafts. CBS Sports' Dave Richard, in fact, believes Edwards-Helaire compares favorably to former Chiefs standout Kareem Hunt and could be considered a top-10 PPR target, making him a potential lock for the first round of most fantasy drafts.