Why Are NFL Players Opting Out and How Much Do They Still Get Paid?

The NFL has taken preventative measures in terms of COVID-19 safety, but Commissioner Roger Goodell is still fielding questions from concerned teams and fans. With no bubble, players will likely take the field with lots of uncertainty. Some have already opted out of the season, citing the health and safety of loved ones. However, they’ll still get some money from their teams. Here are the details.

The NFL’s rules on opting out

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NFL players were given an opt-out window until August 3, reports PFT. Then, players with underlying conditions were allowed to bypass the season without any penalty past their salary. These athletes are on the CDC’s list of people most prone to the virus. 

On the flip side are those who aren’t comfortable playing but don’t fall into the CDC’s at-risk category. They can still opt-out, albeit for a little bit less money. Furthermore, players who opt out medically won’t have to add a year to their contract but offset the pay until the following season. Non-medical players will have to add a year to the end of their contracts and play it out.

Players are devoted to football, but many likely have other things that could keep them off the field. Whether it is fear-based or medical, they have a tough decision to make. Perhaps learning from other leagues’ mishaps, the NFL opted to give a stipend on the season to players who can’t or don’t want to participate. 

How much money will NFL players make? 

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Players who have a medical reason not to play will make a sum that, while not always comparable to their seven-and-eight-figure contracts, will ensure they have some income to carry through the season. These players will make a $350,000 stipend paid in increments. It might not be as attractive for multi-millionaire players used to lavish lifestyles. However, for the average NFL player, it’s still a hefty sum.

Players who opt out for non-medical reasons will get paid a $200,000 stipend over the year. Players who are not drafted or not signed get no sort of stipend. The move might best serve the players who are most likely to opt-out. Players on the fringe of a roster might take the deal for preservation and pay, but they still risk losing out on the opportunity. 

Several players have already made the decision, and while none of them are superstars, their names are surprising, nonetheless. 

Which NFL players opted out? 

The Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the 2019 season after contracting the virus in May and battling it for several months, reports ESPN. Despite the promise of another year of contention, Duvernay-Tardif could not risk his health and the health of others by competing this year. Furthermore, even if he’s healthy, the Chief will likely have lingering issues with such a long bout. Teammate Damien Williams also opted out after his mother was diagnosed with cancer amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

The next most notable player to opt-out was Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower. He’s not the only one opting out of New England’s season, either. Marcus Cannon joined him, as well as Patrick Chung and Dan Vitale. Players had to make a tough decision. Up until the final hours, several players took the NFL up on its offer. 

This is an unprecedented year on and off the field. However, those who can play have to grapple with several of the same decisions as average Americans. Time will tell what happens with the looming NFL season. But it’s sure to be unlike anything the fans have seen in years.