Why are the Patriots the only team to lose multiple stellar players through opt-out?

Dont’a Hightower would have been the leader of the defensive front seven and its most experienced member. Patrick Chung would have played his normal role as the best safety / linebacker hybrid on the team. Marcus Cannon would have started as a right tackle for the fifth consecutive year. Brandon Bolden would have been a central presence for special teams. Woulda, coulda, should have been sidelined, everyone will not play for the New England Patriots this year after opting for their offers earlier this week.

Along with freeback fullback Danny Vitale and backup guard Najee Toran, the four form the Patriots group to exercise their bargaining right to stay out next season over concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic.

What stands out from the list is its quality. As noted above, Hightower, Chung, Cannon and Bolden were projected to see prominent action for the team this year due to their previous roles and the experience they bring as important members of the New England 2.0 Dynasty. His exclusion decisions stand out even more compared to the rest of the league: Only 20 non-patriots have been excluded so far, with Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the group’s biggest name.

This leads to a natural follow-up question: Why is it that the Patriots have so many eligible players compared to the other 31 NFL streetcars, and why are there so many stars among them?

Speculating on the players’ reasons for deciding whether to take advantage of the opt-out or high-risk clause that was included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement is nonsense, because each case is different. Dont’a Hightower, for example, welcomed her first child just two weeks ago; Marcus Cannon is a high-risk gamer due to his history of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Each player has his own reason why he made his decision one way or another.

But why do Patriots stand out, as is often the case? In addition to each player’s personal reasons, there are two additional factors that may have had an impact, at least in regards to time. Both are tied directly to head coach Bill Belichick.

While Belichick has earned a reputation as a stoic figure, to win at all costs, this representation is not entirely accurate. Make no mistake, he cares a lot about his players and their livelihoods, and his investment in recent social protests is just the latest example. There is no doubt that the future Hall of Fame member actively encouraged his players to carefully analyze their options and personal situations before making any decisions: it would be entirely up to their brand to do that based on their track record.

And those situations have created an environment that facilitated exclusion for either personal (Hightower, Chung, Vitale) or physical (Cannon) reasons. This is especially true for veteran players who have already had a solid income over the course of their careers.

“Four Patriots players who chose not to participate […] they are 32, 30, 30 and 32 years old, respectively, ”former New England linebacker Matt Chatham said on Twitter the other day about Cannon, Hightower, Bolden and Chung. “Different things happened at that stage in life for an NFL player, not as big of a surprise as it sounds. We started to see 26/27 year olds in the midst of their first big free agency deal, a different story. “

The second factor mentioned has to do with the process of building the Patriots roster and Belichick’s drive to always be one step ahead of his competition. Getting players to report their respective decisions early is just the latest example of that. While many things may still change between now and the opt-out deadline that comes before August 4, the Patriots already have a first impression of their roster intentions that other teams just don’t have yet.

Belichick, encouraging his players to make decisions and announce them sooner rather than later, is also the reason why the team feels that it has already reached the end of its opt-out phase. Meanwhile, other clubs may be at the start, while New England may already begin studying the field of free agency and the remaining inside talent for possible replacement options.

However, ultimately, there is no one reason why the Patriots currently lead the league in foreclosure options. Instead, a multitude of factors ranging from the team’s veteran roster, to personal situations, to the team’s head coach have likely had an impact on recent developments.