Dont’a Hightower and Marcus Cannon have decided to not play for the Patriots in 2020.
The Cam Newton signing has had New England Patriots fans riding high in recent weeks, but perhaps that blinded everyone from the reality of the 2020 NFL season.
We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and players have the power to opt out and not play given the circumstances. Remember, the NFL has not changed the schedule, so teams are set to travel across the country and to COVID-19 hotbeds. With the campaign set to start in about a month and a half, it doesn’t seem like any of that will change.
But what will change is the decisions of some players. For star linebacker Dont’a Hightower and right tackle Marcus Cannon, they’re going to sit out 2020.
It’s been a rough few hours for Patriots fans. After losing Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency this offseason, Hightower was expected to provide a familiar face and stability in the linebacking corps. But he just had a baby less than two weeks ago and doesn’t want to take any chances.
Not only that, but Newton also lost a key lineman who has been a starter for the last four seasons.
The news regarding Cannon dropped late last night and the right tackle’s decision stems from his battle with cancer. He was treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma during his rookie season in 2011, so he’s what you’d define as a high-risk individual.
The roster turnover this offseason was enough to spark the “dynasty is over” conversation, but now the Patriots’ Super Bowl hopes are taking an even more significant hit. Losing these two key contributors, one of which (Hightower) is in a contract year, is going to set the Pats back significantly.
These guys have been valuable players throughout the Patriots’ recent run and will almost be impossible to replace, given the lack of experience behind them on the depth chart.
Korey Cunningham figures to slot in at right tackle for Cannon while Belichick will have to do some homework in deciding who will step in for Hightower at inside linebacker, considering Terez Hall, Cassh Maluia, De’Jon Harris, Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche are all rookies (the latter two are outside linebackers, too).
The Patriots were already facing an uphill battle with the Chiefs standing tall over the rest of the AFC, and now that New England has lost two of its best players, it’s hard to argue this all but officially takes them out of the Super Bowl conversation.