The deadline for all NFL players to exercise their right to opt out and to suspend the coming season, has passed. It is therefore certain: Many players will forego the 2020 season, including some stars. SPOX takes a look at the ten biggest names and who could replace them.
C.J. Mosley (New York Jets, Linebacker)
For the Jets, the task of replacing Mosley is not a new challenge. The 28-year-old was already out most of the preseason, when James Burgess and Neville Hewitt formed the team’s inside linebacker duo. In 2020, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has more options: Avery Williamson, one of the best run defenders in the league, is returning from a cruciate ligament rupture, and Blake Cashman is also fit again and is therefore a starter option. In addition, the Jets signed Patrick Onwuasor in the offseason, who had played another convincing season as a starter for the Ravens in 2018, before losing something in the previous year.
Replacing a Mosley quality player one-on-one will be difficult. If Williamson finds his way back to his old form and one of the young linebackers can take the next step, the team on the position does not necessarily have to be weak.
Dont’a Hightower (New England Patriots, Linebacker)
The linebacker group of the Patriots looks much thinner after the disappearance of Hightower. Ja’Whaun Bentley showed promising performances in the preseason and should receive significantly more snaps in New England’s Defense – but the 23-year-old was actually intended for the role alongside Hightower, not as a replacement for him.
Brandon Copeland should now have the best cards for the job of the second starting linebacker in New England Defense. The 29-year-old has played for the Jets in the past two seasons, but played a rather mixed season in 2019. Meanwhile, youngsters like Cassh Maluia and Terez Hill are still completely unknown. Josh Uche, whom the Patriots selected in the second round draft, could get Snaps as inside linebacker, but should only play a limited and lightning-heavy role there, he is not a direct Hightower replacement.
Nate Solder (New York Giants, Left Tackle)
Solder’s opt-out is believed to have had a direct impact on the development of Andrew Thomas, New York’s first-round pick in fourth place in the draft. Thomas had been drafted as New York’s left tackle of the future, but should probably still play right tackle in his first season and then later take over from Solder. Now the giant from Georgia should start directly on the left side of the O-Line. It is undisputed that Thomas has the talent, but rookie tackles can often take time in the NFL, even more than players in other positions.
The bigger question mark for Daniel Jones and the Giants is now the position of the right tackle. With Matt Peart, the franchise selected another offensive tackle within the first three rounds in the draft. The 23-year-old only played right tackle at college, going into the season with two rookies as tackles, but would be an enormous risk – especially with Jones, who regularly missed any feeling for the opposing pass rush in his first season. as a quarterback. The more likely option is therefore called Cameron Fleming. The 27-year-old received a one-year contract for at least 3.5 million dollars in the offseason and already indicated starter potential in New England and Dallas. So far, however, Fleming has never played more than 500 snaps in one season …
Marcus Cannon (New England Patriots, Right Tackle)
“Next Man up” is the motto of the Patriots, who for many years have repeatedly managed to compensate for the departures of high performers by promoting a backup. After Cannon’s opt-out, this credo should be put to the test particularly strongly in 2020 – especially since the highly acclaimed O-Line coach Dante Scarnecchia declared his career over at the end of the previous season.
The first option for the role of the new starting right tackle is arguably Korey Cunningham. The 25-year-old was selected by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the draft in 2018, but already shipped back to New England for a six-round pick after his rookie season. Cunningham already played a few dozen snaps for the Patriots last year, but he probably didn’t score any real plus points. Also a candidate: Yodny Cajuste. The offensive tackle had already been selected by the Patriots in the third round of 2019, but missed his entire rookie season due to a quadriceps injury.
Ja’Wuan James (Denver Broncos, Right Tackle)
For the Broncos, James’ retirement – similar to Mosley and the Jets – is not really a new situation. After signing his four-year $ 51 million deal, the 28-year-old only played three games in his debut season in Colorado, and James was out with a knee injury for the rest of the season. At that time, Elijah Wilkinson stepped into the breach, replacing James as the starter on the right side of the Broncos line.
The team would be well advised to find a better option in the coming month, unless Wilkinson takes a clear step forward. In the previous year, the 25-year-old allowed a total of ten sacks (fourth place in the league) and was responsible for another nine penalties. Alternatives are few and far between in the Mile High City, however, the spot should ultimately be decided by the performance in the training camp. Calvin Anderson and Quinn Bailey, both Undrafted Rookies 2019, could also have chances for the starting position. With Demar Dotson, an experienced and solid right tackle would still be on the market.