Patriots

What's next for the Pats who opted out of the 2020 season?

Patriots

The New England Patriots had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. As we look ahead to the new league year, it remains unclear which players will be back in the fold for 2021.

The three biggest names on the list are safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon. In a conversation with Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry shared how he sees the offseason going for the key Patriots veterans.

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"If I were to handicap it right now, I think I would guess that Chung and Hightower would be back and that Cannon, who loves his ranch and loves being in the outdoors will just ride off into the sunset," Perry said. "And then you have what I would say, two of your most important defensive pieces right back in the mix potentially for 2021."

Hightower's future, as Curran notes, will have significant salary cap ramifications.

"If a player like Dont'a Hightower comes back -- and they need help at the linebacker level and I don't think there still is any more devastating player on their front seven than Hightower -- but if he doesn't come back, the Patriots have some serious cap savings in line," Curran said. "They might even ask Dont'a to trim his salary coming back especially if the cap drops. That could really change that equation."

Hightower, who has a $12.45 million cap hit, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

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