No NFL team has had more players opt out of the 2020 season than the New England Patriots. Wide receiver Marqise Lee on Saturday became the seventh Patriot to opt out, following linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, right tackle Marcus Cannon, special-teamer and backup running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, and practice squad offensive lineman Najee Toran.
Lee became a father earlier this year, and cited the health of his family as the reason he is opting out of the season.
"This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that's going out there, it just wasn't worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns," Lee said, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "We knew New England, honestly, had a great system in place. But I told Coach [Bill Belichick], at the end of the day, I wouldn't be doing him justice going out there because I wouldn't be able to give him my all knowing my family was back at the house worrying about their situation."
There are obviously more pressing concerns than this, but the effect of Lee's opt-out is that an already-thin New England wide receiver corps is now even thinner. The 34-year-old Julian Edelman looks like the team's No. 1 target entering the season, and while that has worked fine for the Pats in the past, Edelman no longer has Tom Brady and the mind-meld the two established over the years.
Behind Edelman are Mohamed Sanu (who struggled badly amid various injuries after arriving in New England last season), N'Keal Harry (who was practically invisible as a rookie), Jakobi Meyers (an undrafted free agent who flashed at times last year but was inconsistent), and Damiere Byrd (a cast-off from the Cardinals), plus Matthew Slater and Gunner Olszewski (special-teamers), and undrafted free agents Jeff Thomas and Will Hastings.
While the New England offense should change quite a bit with (presumably) Cam Newton under center rather than Brady, with a likely increased focus on the run game, option plays, and misdirection, but it would still be nice if Newton had a bit more help on the outside. The Patriots are going to have to get creative to make up for the relative talent deficiencies they have at this spot, as well as hope that Edelman can stave off any drop in production, Sanu bounces back, and Harry takes a step forward.