Marcus Cannon on Monday became the third New England Patriots player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns, according to a report from Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.
Guregian had reported earlier Monday that Cannon, who battled non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma early in his pro career, was “looking at (the opt-out option) critically and discussing it with his family.”
Cannon has been the Patriots’ primary starter at right tackle since 2016. The 32-year-old started 15 games last season, missing one with a shoulder injury.
His opt-out is a major blow to a New England offense line that already was weathering the loss of longtime position coach Dante Scarnecchia. (With Scarnecchia now retired, Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich will share coaching duties this season.) Behind expected starters Cannon and Isaiah Wynn, the Patriots’ depth chart at tackle was perilously thin, consisting of Korey Cunningham, 2019 third-round draft pick Yodny Cajuste and 2020 sixth-rounder Justin Herron.
Cunningham has seven career NFL appearances and was a healthy scratch for all but one game last season, his first with the Patriots. Cajuste and Herron have yet to participate in a single NFL practice or game, with the former missing his entire rookie season following pre-draft quad surgery. Joe Thuney also has tackle experience, but all 64 of his NFL starts have come at left guard.
With Cannon’s roster spot now vacant, the Patriots likely will look to add at least one experienced tackle. The pool of available free agents includes ex-Pats LaAdrian Waddle, Marshall Newhouse and Jared Veldheer, as well as NFL veterans Demar Dotson, Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills and J’Marcus Webb, among others.
Fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran also opted out of the season Monday, opening two spots on the Patriots’ 80-man roster. The team reportedly filled one by re-signing undrafted rookie receiver Will Hastings.
Cannon’s medical history likely would classify him as a “higher-risk player,” entitling him to a $350,000 stipend salary. Non-high-risk (aka “voluntary”) players who opt out will receive $150,000 in the form of a salary advance.
If you guys are curious about the opt-out language, here it is. Marcus Cannon seemingly would qualify as a higher risk player opt out, which comes with a higher stipend salary. pic.twitter.com/51WWO1TEC3
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 28, 2020