The opt-out deadline has come and gone in the NFL for players. 69 players opted out of the season (according to Fox) and therefore get a season salary of between $150,000 and $350,000. The $350,000 is for high risk players and the $150,000 are for “voluntary opt-outs” and is effectively an advancement on a future salary. Hopefully, all decisions are respected, the reasons range from high risk medical reasons to new-born children joining families. All decisions need to be respected how ever much their absence may hurt the team. Big names are not devoid from this list either.
Eddie Goldman (Bears), Ja’Wuan James (Broncos), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Chiefs), Damien Williams (Chiefs), Nate Solder (Giants), CJ Mosley (Jets), Michael Pierce (Vikings) and a whole lot of Patriots (Bolden, Cannon, Chung and Hightower) being the players who looked to have starting roles in their teams locked up. However, no QBs are on that list which is important. It will hopefully mean that no team has an “excuse” (if QBs can still stay healthy) and therefore whoever wins Superbowl 55 won’t have a large Asterix next to their victory. It’s a shame that 69 players will miss this year and it’s sadly likely that that number will increase throughout the season, but it is something that the sport can navigate.
To help navigate this, practise squads have proposed changes as to how the practise squads work. Firstly, the size will increase from 12 to 16 players and 6 of those players can have unlimited accrued seasons. This is to cover for Covid affected players but can (and will) be used by teams to get detailed looks at players they are interested in for future rosters. To add to this, a team can protect 4 players a week from being signed by other rosters. Allowing the most valuable practise squad players to stay with the team. Therefore, I expect next years rosters to be full of talent with the amount of players the teams will get to rate this year due to the practise squads. Other changes include being able to promote a practise squad member to the active roster 90 minutes before a game and that unlimited number of players can return from IR after 3 weeks. This allows for more player changes throughout the year, however, will it be used for matchup purposes rather than health reasons?
All of this is why I expect the teams with the most experience staff to have a mid-season surge as they are able to work out loopholes in the rules to benefit their team from more than a health perspective. . Belichick, Roseman and Schneider will all get their teams (Patriots, Seahawks and Eagles respectively) into the playoffs by winning a few games they shouldn’t because they use the new rules to help their teams in ways others don’t. This is going to be a year where coaching comes to the fore.
The one worry for the NFL that can is in the immediate future is the deadline for officials to opt out. This deadline is Thursday the 13th of August. Players opting out (even 69 of them) won’t kill a season, but a few of the right officials opting out could lead to major trouble. Weather that is replacement referees (not again…please) or gaps in communication between teams and the league leading to more chaos, this may be the more important deadline for opt outs. Hopefully, the number is low.