New England Patriots punting on 2020 season should surprise no one

Bill Belichick always has a plan, so the idea the New England Patriots will punt the 2020 season is hardly surprising.

After Tom Brady’s departure in free agency, the New England Patriots are in transition. Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham may have a future as their starting quarterback, but that’s unclear at this point.

As the opt-out deadline for NFL players approaches, due to COVID-19 concerns of course, the list of players to do so is growing. On Tuesday morning that list took a Foxboro tilt, with linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and right tackle Marcus Cannon the most notable of six Patriots’ players to opt out of playing the 2020 season. If you’re scoring at home, that’s two of New England’s best defensive players and their starting right tackle.

Hightower’s fiance just a had a baby, so he’s got legitimate concerns about bringing COVID-19 home. Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma during the 2011 pre-draft process, so he fits the high-risk category for COVID-19. There’s only respect to be given with any player’s decision not to play this season, but for Hightower and Cannon its practical no-brainer

In the wake of all the Patriots’ players opting out, ESPN’s Adam Schefter passed along a text exchange he had with an unnamed NFL executive.

Are the Patriots going to punt the 2020 season?

The Patriots were quiet in free agency before making some late-June noise by signing Newton. They did not draft a quarterback, and they’ve already cut the two undrafted free agent signal callers they brought in.

The NFL salary cap is set to drop in 2021, which will put a lot of teams in a bad way. But the Patriots will not have a major issue, with just $124 million committed to 55 players before the opt outs that will cause contracts to toll or Newton reaches his incentives. Every team will have a hard time doing business, but the Patriots will be in a good position.

The Patriots are rebooting, and the most important piece of that will be the quarterback. The 2021 draft class is headlined at quarterback by Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, with what looks to be some solid depth at the position.

In the kindest and most complementary terms, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is smart and calculated. So, on the idea they won’t be a great team this year anyway, would it be surprising if he’s suggesting players with any sort of worries about COVID-19 opt out? The answer to that is no, and if there’s a plan to punt the 2020 season it has been accelerated now.

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