Patriots Lose Massive Piece of Defense Through COVID-19 Opt-Out

Getty Donta Hightower and Devin McCourty

The New England Patriots have had five players choose to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, and none of them leave a larger void than veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

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Dont’a Hightower Tops List of 5 Patriots Opting Out of 2020 NFL Season

Early Tuesday morning, Hightower’s intentions to opt-out of the upcoming season were made public. Hightower and his fiancee have a two-week-old son, and the 30-year-old, three-time Super Bowl champion’s mother has Type-2 Diabetes. For both of those reasons, it is easy to see why Hightower is electing to sit out the season.

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Hightower joins Dan Vitale, Najee Toran, Marcus Cannon, and Branden Bolden as Patriots who are using the opt-out clause that was added to the amendment of the NFL and NFLPA’s agreement.

With each passing day, we’re seeing just how important of a piece to the puzzle the option to sit out was to the players.

There is a legitimate concern throughout the league when it comes to safety and players protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19, and because of that, there is no way to know if the list of players opting out will grow.

Possible Replacements for Hightower

According to most Patriots depth charts, rookie Cassh Maluia is listed as the next man up behind Hightower, but unless the sixth-round pick shows up at Foxborough and blows the minds of Bill Belichick and the coaching staff, it is hard to imagine all of the responsibilities that Hightower carries being transferred over to someone with such little experience.

Perhaps veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley, who traditionally plays on the left side, might be a more realistic option for the Patriots. Without a question, the Patriots almost certainly have to be in the hunt for free agents to fill some of these voids left by the opt-outs.

What has already been an eventful week in Patriots nation is sure to get even more happenings before training camp actually gets underway.

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