As fans look ahead to next season there will be a lot of excitement about the draft and free agency, while some will have injured players who should return to boost the team.
It’s largely been forgotten that a ton of players took up the option to opt-out ahead of last season for various reasons, and it’s not completely clear if they will all return for the next campaign.
That will probably come down to the covid-19 situation as plenty were deemed to be “high-risk”, but it’s also going to be interesting to see what impact taking a year out of the game will have.
Generally speaking not playing for a year will hurt their technique and it will take a while to build their fitness back up, but the rest could also allow them to heal and play at 100% for the first time in years.
That’s particularly true for those who are used to either smashing into opposition players or taking big hits themselves on a regular basis, so here’s some interesting names who could be set to return next season.
Laurant Duvernay-Tardif – Kansas City – OL
There will be fans who will wonder if the Super Bowl would’ve went differently if Duvernay-Tardif was available for the Chiefs, but you can’t get on his back when you consider he opted out to head back to Canada to help out in the fight against Covid.
He’s just turned 30 so the time away may have helped him as he enters his prime years, while he might even find NFL life less stressful than the last year where he’s been working as an orderly.
Questions have also been raised today about the futures of Fisher and Schwartz because they carry high cap hits next year, so Duvernay-Tardif’s return would be a welcome boost next season if he does decide to come back to football.
Dont’a Hightower – New England Patriots – LB
Another player who may not be guaranteed to return, but the Patriots could really use him just now after some shoddy play at the LB position last year.
There was a general acceptance that his opt out would allow the impressive looking Ja’Whaun Bentley to take over as one of the leaders of the defence, but he was so far out of his depth and he couldn’t do much to affect the game at all.
Uche and Jennings do look promising and you have to think more help will arrive in the draft or during FA, so having Hightower for a year or two to act as the leader and mentor to the group would be huge.
Eddie Goldman – Chicago Bears – DT
The Bears defence was 15th in yards allowed on the ground last season so it wasn’t a massive problem, but the offense was so poor and they need to have a top level defence if they want to be troubling the latter stages of the playoffs next time round.
Goldman will be a welcome return and there are reports suggesting that he’s raring to go ahead of next season, so there’s every reason to believe that he will be back.
He’s one of those players who may not be truly appreciated until he’s out of the team, so hopefully he’s able to make up for lost time next season if he does come back.
You can read the full list of players who opted out on the NFL website and there are mostly rotation level players who will have to compete for a spot when they come back, but there are still some more who could make an impact in there.