Dont’a Hightower and Marcus Cannon opting out of the 2020 NFL season is bad news for the Patriots.
Losing another two big-name starters on top of a tumultuous offseason of turnover is tremendously bad no matter how you look at it, but the New England Patriots, for the first time in quite a while, do not have the necessary reinforcements on the depth chart to replace Dont’a Hightower and Marcus Cannon.
The Pats are now down their starting inside linebacker and right tackle for an upcoming season in which they couldn’t afford another single loss.
It’s no secret Bill Belichick drafts adequately to replace top talent, but very rarely is he forced to throw guys into the fire under such circumstances.
That could be the case this year. The only good news to come out of this is the team’s revitalized cap situation.
However, who will replace these two stalwarts in the Patriots starting lineup? Everyone behind them on the depth chart is a rookie (or highly inexperienced), so that means it’ll take a lot of learning and catching up during training camp, or a few additions in free agency/via trade to make up for the losses.
Behind Cannon, the Patriots have Korey Cunningham, who came into the league in 2018 and has played in just seven total games. Yodny Cajuste, who was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft is another option, but he didn’t play at all last year.
The linebacker situation offers a bit more promise, but the selection of those to play alongside Ja’Whaun Bentley are all rookies (and Uche is more of a pass rusher than an ILB). Perhaps some outside guys can move to the inside considering there’s more depth and experience there, but that would mean someone changing over and learning a new position.
And that’s not to mention Patrick Chung, whose departure just thinned out the secondary (which, to be fair, remains a Patriots strength).
All in all, the Patriots’ continuity is further being decimated and the “Next Man Up” mantra might not be enough to keep the team afloat against what’s expected to be an incredibly difficult schedule.