As the 2020 season rolls around the coronavirus still remains a major issue for the upcoming NFL season. Players are having to make a decision soon about whether or not they will be playing in the 2020 NFL season. While this seems like a very simple decision about risking a virus diagnosis and playing, or staying safe at home there seems to be much more going on behind the scenes in the Patriots organization.
The biggest reason for suspicion from the patriots is the sheer quantity of opt-outs coming from the organization. Despite many players already choosing to opt-out of the coming season no team has had the prevalence of this like the Patriots. Among those opting out from the New England Patriots are S Patrick Chung, RB Brandon Bolden, OT Marcus Cannon, WR Marqise Lee, LB Dont'a Hightower, OL Najee Toran, FB Danny Vitale, and most recently TE Matt LaCosse. Most important of these players are Hightower and Chung of the defense, and Cannon from a Patriots offense that is rebuilding this year. Without Chung and Hightower it seems unlikely that Patriots can have as good as year last year on the defensive side of the ball. The loss of Marcus Cannon also hurts the Patriots a lot with a new quarterback Cam Newton who is known for his running ability and may not be able to be effective in that realm with a weak offensive line.
The Patriots are in a rebuild year after losing the greatest quarterback in not only Patriots franchise history, but all of NFL history in Tom Brady. Newly signed Cam Newton looks to compete with the young sophomore Jarret Stidham. Though Cam could be a band-aid for the Patriots in the 2020 season, he is definitely not the long term answer for the Patriots. With the Patriots realizing this (one year contract) they are looking to possibly replace Cam Newton in future years. By tanking this year the Patriots could end up in a situation where they have the ability to select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft including Justin Fields and possibly even an opportunity to select the most coveted player in the upcoming draft Trevor Lawrence. This all sounds like a scheme designed by two of the greatest coach and owner combos in Bill Belichik and Robert Kraft.
Lets take a moment to look from an optimistic perspective that the Patriots are playing fairly and something other than tanking is driving these opt-outs. One of the reasons we could being seeing the opt-outs is that the Patriots organization is not pushing a opt-out in order to tank, but rather is trying to force Patriot players into making earlier decisions on their stance for the upcoming season. This does make lots of sense considering from a financial and roster perspective most teams would like to have an idea of what pieces they need to replace for the 2020 season so it is very possible that the Patriots just requested players get to them about sitting out of the season early and that once the opt-out period is over all teams will have a similar number of players sitting out, including the Patriots. That is why I am calling this rumor fiction and rather a request to try and form the roster accordingly with the players planning to opt-out.