Well over two dozen players all across the NFL have already made the decision to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kansas City's Damien Williams, Giants left tackle Nate Solder and Vikings' Michael Pierce are some of the big names to punt on 2020, but no club has seen a greater volume of players opting out than the New England Patriots.
A total of six Pats have decided to opt out of the season, including three key starters -- linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and right tackle Marcus Cannon. That number nearly grew to seven (and possibly more), as team captain and special teams ace Matthew Slater told Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network he considered sitting out the year before ultimately making the decision to play.
This is a positive development for the Patriots as the potential loss of Slater would have impacted the club on a number of levels. On the field, he's been a mainstay on special teams since being drafted by the club in 2008. He's arguably one of the greatest gunners of all-time, being named to eight Pro Bowls and is a five-time first-team All-Pro. Slater has also helped New England to it's previous three Super Bowl titles.
Almost more importantly, Slater is one of the key leaders to the Patriots, which cannot be overlooked after an offseason that saw the departures of Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, and Duron Harmon on top of these latest opt-outs like Hightower earlier this week. Having an anchor like Slater in the locker room will be critical for Bill Belichick as he tries to navigate the potentially rough waters of the post-Brady era.
What's also interesting is the nugget that NFL Network's Mike Garafolo highlighting on "Good Morning Football" Thursday suggesting that "it's possible" the list of Patriots opting out could have grown even more had Slater, a longtime captain, decided to sit the year out. Of course, players still have a few days to ultimately decide if they'll opt out or not, but New England can rest a bit easier knowing that Slater will be staying put for 2020.