Patriots: NE cleared a ton of cap space with Hightower and Cannon opt-outs


The Patriots saved a load of cap space with five players opting out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots depth took a severe hit when it was reported that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale, offensive guard Najee Toran and running back Brandon Bolden all decided to opt out of the 2020 season, citing fears about playing amid the global pandemic as their reasoning.

Just hours later, it was revealed that linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who was expected to take on a huge role this year following a slew of offseason departures, joined his teammates in choosing not to play. As of this writing, the two-time Pro Bowler is the most notable player to opt out.

This obviously isn’t great news for New England, but if there is a silver lining to be had, it’s that the franchise could save a load of cap space as a result.

Hightower was set to make a base salary of $8 million this campaign. Now, he will receive a $150,000 stipend and his contract will be deferred to 2021. The 30-year-old vet became a father for the first time earlier this month, and it’s being speculated that was the driving force behind his decision.

It’s worth noting that the Patriots salary cap, which supposedly stands at $24.19 million after the five opt-outs, isn’t yet set in stone. The number is susceptible to change if the players’ settlements were merely voluntary and not “high-risk.”

While it’s unknown what Hightower will be considered, Cannon, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma at the NFL Combine back in 2011, could easily be tabbed high-risk by the NFL.

Because the league handbook is filled with countless regulations, Patriots fans should also keep in mind that only the 51 most expensive contracts count against a team’s salary cap. In other words, if any of the five players that are choosing not to play land outside New England’s top 51, they will not create cap space for the 2020 season.

Again, this is far from an ideal scenario for the Patriots, as most of these players figured to play big roles in 2020.

However, if there’s something to take solace in, it’s that they could potentially be equipped with the necessary cap room to sign reinforcements.