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The NFL is reportedly concerned with players taking advantage of the opt out policy, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, players have the ability to opt out of the 2020 season. Players who opt out will receive $350,000 if the league determines that player is high risk for the virus. Other players will make $150,000 if they opt out. A number of NFL players, including Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley, have already exercised that right.
The league reportedly fears players who will be cut will opt out of the season so they can receive a stipend, according to Florio. The league is also fearful agents are using the opt out as a way to secure better contracts for their clients.
The deadline for players to opt out was supposed to be seven days after the altered CBA was ratified, but that still hasn’t been done yet. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the opt out date will be moved to Wednesday.
Would NFL players actually take advantage of the opt out rule?
Players who fear getting cut could opt out in an attempt to secure a salary, but that strategy comes with a significant caveat. Players who opt out but don’t make the team next season will reportedly have to pay that stipend back, making it unlikely that the strategy works. NFL teams reportedly don’t want to chase down players for that stipend, but if the Detroit Lions showed us anything with both Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, NFL teams might ask any players to pay them back.
Agents using the opt out clause as leverage is certainly a concern for teams, though not much different than holdouts or other contract-related issues teams face every offseason. If agents threaten their clients will sit out unless offered a new contract, NFL teams know how to handle that situation.
Devin McCourty calls NFL moving opt out date ‘an absolute joke’
At least one NFL player disagrees with the league’s tactics. New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said it’s “an absolute joke” the league is trying to move the opt out date.
McCourty’s comments read:
“I think it’s an absolute joke NFL is changing the opt out period mainly because they don’t want to see guys continue to opt out. I’m sure they are shocked about how many guys have opted out, but it’s the same thing when we sign the CBA. Sometimes, some rules things that we think are good, sometimes backfire. We have rookies who are locked in long-term contracts and tagged and tagged. You guys don’t think that we would love to change that? ... That’s the point of signing an agreement.
“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s BS that the league changed that date, because you guys know Monday will be our first day in the building. So to try to act like guys are making a decision about something other than virtual meetings is a joke. But I think it’s something that we go through as players. When players understand how much power we have, we see things change for us.”
McCourty added, “I support guys no matter what they decide.”
NFL players have plenty of reasons for opting out
While the NFL is worried players will act in bad faith, there are plenty of reasons for players to opt out of the 2020 season. The coronavirus pandemic is a major concern, especially in football — where rosters are large and players are constantly in close contact with each other.
It doesn’t help that MLB has experienced multiple positive tests since starting its season July 23. The Miami Marlins had more than half the team test positive for the virus. The Marlins aren’t the only team dealing with the virus. Both the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals have endured positive tests since the season started. A large number of MLB games have been canceled as a result.
The NFL and MLB are different sports with different policies, but both leagues intend on teams playing games in their home markets in 2020. MLB’s struggles with the virus may not bode well for NFL players who were already on the fence about playing in 2020.
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