We are in a dead period regarding NFL news until training camps open late this month, but today at 4 p.m. ET is a huge deadline because that's when players must notify the league whether they choose to opt out of the 2021 season. If a player does choose to opt out, that decision is irreversible. The two biggest names to watch are Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, although neither is expected to take the nuclear option. No key players around the league are expected to do so.
A reminder that any players deemed high risk regarding COVID would get a stipend for this year if they opt out, but voluntary opt outs get nothing. All rookies are ineligible to opt out.
We wrote about Rodgers last week and how he essentially would keep $18.3 million for the season by opting out but would lose $14.7 million more in salary. There is scuttlebutt that things between Rodgers and the Packers are softening, and that he will show up to training camp – if perhaps not right on time to make a point.
Watson wants out of Houston in the worst way but is untradeable at the moment because of all his off-field issues. There are 22 active lawsuits against him alleging sexual harassment and sexual assault. Watson isn't scheduled to give his deposition until February 2022.
The NFL investigation is still ongoing (as is a Houston police criminal investigation) and it's quite likely that Watson is put on the Commissioner Exempt List before camps open. The Texans seem to have moved on for this year at least with the signing of veteran Tyrod Taylor, the projected Week 1 starter, and drafting of Stanford QB Davis Mills with the team's initial 2021 selection, which wasn't until Round 3. Jeff Driskel is also on the roster.
Even if Watson is put on the Commissioner Exempt List, he still gets his $10 million salary for this year on what would essentially be paid leave. If he opted out, he gets nothing and simply bumps his entire contract back by one year. If there were no off-field issues, Watson, like Rodgers, could threaten to opt out for leverage to force a trade, but, again, no team is trading for Watson right now.
Incidentally, bettors can wager on Watson to repeat as the NFL passing yardage champion despite all that's going on – he threw for a career-high 4,823 yards in 2020. William Hill Sportsbook this week released player yardage props and Watson is +2500 to lead in passing. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes is the +500 favorite. Rodgers is +800.
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