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20Q: What Happens When Players Opt Out?


Editor's Note: With the understanding that positon battles, roster spots and other football questions take a major backseat to the bigger issues that have been presented by COVID-19, our staff will attempt to tackle 20 of the bigger questions that this team and league faces as we get ready for the 2020 season. Today, we continue the series with a question regarding the opt-out protocol that has already affected the Cowboys twice this week.

20Q – What Happens When Players Opt Out?

Here in the last few days, we're starting to see players around the NFL – including two with the Cowboys – decide to opt out of the 2020 season. There are different types of opt-out and it has a different outcome for players depending on their status with the league. For a rookie, it's a different scenario than a veteran, such as Maurice Canady, who opted out this week.

Here's how the Cowboys' staff writers assessed the current opt-out situation for the NFL.

David Helman: This is going to bear some close monitoring over the next week or so. Players have until Aug. 3 to opt out of this season, and we've already seen that many will be doing just that. There are two types of opt-out – the high risk and the general. Players who qualify for the "high risk" category have been diagnosed with a condition from the CDC's risk factors list – think heart conditions, cancer and the like. They get a $350,000 stipend from the league, and they get credit for an accrued season – but their salary tolls over to next season. Meanwhile, a general opt-out gets $150,000 and they don't get credit for an accrued season. Let's simplify this by applying it to the Cowboys. Veteran cornerback Maurice Canady took a voluntary opt-out earlier this week. The front office will pay him $150,000 out of the value of his own $1.2 million contract, which he signed in March. That one-year deal will also roll over into next season, so he is now set to become a free agent in 2022, rather than 2021. And if he does make the team next season, his deal will be $150,000 smaller due to his current stipend. In the case of an undrafted opt-out, such as wide receiver Stephen Guidry, there is no stipend and the team retains his rights into next year. What will be interesting is to see if any bigger players, with bigger contracts opt to sit out the season. We've already seen it happen in places like Minnesota and New England.

Nick Eatman: While Dave broke it down rather nicely there, the one thing I'll be looking at here in the next few days, is how many other roster long shots such as Guidry will opt to do the same. It's not really beating the system, it's just giving yourself the best chance to make the team. Guidry is a wide receiver trying to make the team that already has Cooper, Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. It's not exactly an easy group to join, especially if you don't have preseason games to show off your skills. So for a guy like that, it just makes sense for him to get a fresh start next year. Remember, he won't have any contact with the team in 2020. He won't be in meetings, watching film and won't be around the facility. When the 2020 season is finished, he will re-join the team with three years on his contract. Now, when I see this might be a better situation for Guidry, it's without knowing where he stands on the entire COVID situation. He might have concerns and/or a perspective that I don't know. I'm just saying it makes sense for guys that have a hard time making the roster, to go this route. We might see more of that in the next week.