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NFC East notebook: The impact of each player opt-out around the division

Here’s the news around the division this week

Cleveland Browns v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

To play or not to play. That is now the question for every NFL player heading into the 2020 season. As player after player around the league makes the decision to opt out or play, let’s revisit the amended collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association.

If a player does choose to opt out, he must provide his team with written notification within seven days of the date that the NFL and NFLPA finalize the agreement that includes the terms of such opt-outs.

To be considered a voluntary opt-out, a player must be under contract or subject to a tender. The player’s contract, including all provisions for the tolled year, will be applicable to the following season. The player will not receive an accrued season though. He will be eligible for a stipend of $150,000 to be treated as salary advance against the tolled contract. An undrafted free agent is not eligible for the stipend.

There are different protocols in place for players who are designated higher risk opt-outs. In order to be considered higher-risk, a player must have a diagnosis reflected in their medical records of at least one of a number of factors, based on a modified list of the Centers for Disease Control.

Higher-risk opt-outs are eligible for a stipend of $350,000.

For the New York Giants, the first opt-out was offensive tackle Nate Solder. Around the league though, opt-outs have impacted each team differently. Twelve teams have no opt-outs so far while others like the New England Patriots have six players choosing to opt-out. As of the publication of this story on Friday afternoon, 30 players from 20 franchises have chosen to opt out.

The twelve teams that have yet to have a player opt out include the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Until the NFL and NFLPA sign the new provisions on the CBA, the seven-day window to opt-out is on hold. There will likely therefore be more opt outs to come until an agreement is reached.

Now, let’s take a look at the opt-outs around the NFC East and consider the impact on each team.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have had one of the most notable opt-outs around the league in wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

Philly entered the 2020 draft with a pressing need at the wide receiver position. They acquired Goodwin by moving down six spots in the sixth round. Goodwin has not been as productive on the field recently as injuries have caused him to miss 15 games over the past two years.

But Goodwin is still a guy who has averaged 31 yards per game over seven seasons and he recorded 56 receptions for 962 yards in 2017. Heading into the 2020 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic though, priorities have shifted.

Goodwin’s one-year contract will toll to 2021. The veteran was not guaranteed to make the the Eagles 53-man roster but success at the wide receiver position now depends on DeSean Jackson and three rookies.

Regardless of the on-field impact though, it is clear that Goodwin made what he feels to be the best decision for his family. He explained his decision in a video posted to his YouTube channel. Part of the transcription of his explanation is included below.

I’ve chosen to opt out of playing in the 2020-2021 season this year and here’s why. Three years ago I made a decision that affected my whole life. I chose to leave my wife at the hospital after prematurely birthing our first baby — due to incompetent cervix, which resulted in a fatality — to play in a football game. I felt like I had to prove to my coaches and new team that I was dedicated to winning and I wouldn’t let anything keep me from that goal, not even my family.The following year in the same month, the same week, our lives took another traumatic turn. Two weeks after learning that her abdominal cerclage was failing, my wife called me shortly after I arrived in our team hotel in Tampa, Florida, to inform me she was having painful contractions and my grandma, who flew up to help take of [my wife] Morgan while I would go to work at away games, had to rush her to the ER. Here we are again in the same predicament as a year ago except I was almost 3,000 miles away. Anxiety overtook me as I again had to make a similar decision. Would I choose to play again like everyone may expect me to do? Or do I go home and tend to my ailing wife? Nevertheless, I told our GM at the time that I absolutely had to fly back and honor my wedding vows that I made to her, myself, and God. We lost our twin boys. We had three angel babies to watch as their heartbeats grew more and more faint by the minute until it stopped. I’m holding these babies, y’all, and I’m seeing my babies heartbeats grow weaker and weaker. Like, imagine that. You know what I’m saying?

Washington Football Team

Defensive end Caleb Brantley became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season using the “high risk” designation. He will receive a $350,000 stipend for the year. During training camp of the 2019 season, Brantley suffered a “mild” Lisfranc foot injury that was aggravated in Week 1. He was placed on IR and signed to a one-year deal.

Brantley has spent the past two seasons with Washington but has only played in eight games due to injuries. The Cleveland Browns selected him in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and he played 12 games with one start while with the team.

The loss of Brantley does not impact Washington the same way as the Goodwin’s loss will impact Philly. His absence has been more routine than not in recent years and will therefore be easier to adjust to.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are leading the division so far with two player opt-outs, including cornerback Maurice Canady and wide receiver Stephen Guidry.

Canady was the first player to opt out for the Cowboys. Dallas signed Canady this offseason as a means to try to fill the void left by Byron Jones. Canady was expected to play a role in a new and improved secondary for the Cowboys. Fellow cornerback Daryl Worley and draft picks Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson II will have the opportunity to step up.

Canady will receive the $150,000 stipend. He signed a one-year deal with the team and, at 26 years old, is likely to return to play in 2021.

As for Guidry...the Cowboys solidified their ultra-talented wide receiving corps when they drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 Draft. Amidst all of the receiving talent on the roster, Guidry was not a lock to make it on the final 53-man team. Factor in the shortened preseason and the rookie out of Mississippi State had the odds stacked against him.

It is important to note that as an undrafted free agent, Guidry is not eligible for the $150,000 advance.

That’s it for the NFC East opt-outs for now but expect more in the coming weeks.