Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has been the starting right guard for the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs for the last five years. He is also a graduate of the medical school at McGill University in Canada and has been working as an orderly in a long-term care facility in Montreal this offseason.
That the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus per the terms of an agreement reached between the NFL owners and NFL Players Association is also, to my knowledge, the only practicing health care professional in the league should tell us everything we need to know about the dangers of playing football right now and the decisions that a number of players are now wrestling with.
Of course every player matters, but when you look at contenders like the Patriots losing Devonta Hightower, Marcus Cannon and Patrick Chung, and Devin Funchess of the Packers, Marquise Goodwin of the Eagles, Michael Pierce of the Vikings, Star Lotulelei of the Bills and Chance Warmack of the Seahawks, to name a few sitting out this season for those contenders, the virus has already put its thumb on the scale of competitive balance.
While that is quite significant it is also burying the lead.
Every player I’ve talked about this with has indicated that while they are terribly worried about the potential severity of the virus, their main focus and concern isn’t for themselves but is for their wives, significant others, kids, parents, siblings and extended families.
I would hope every one of us gives them our utmost respect, support and admiration for their willingness to put their dream careers, wealth and fame at risk to try and protect their families and themselves.
With that said, no team has taken a bigger hit to date than the Chicago Bears with the announcement today that Eddie Goldman is opting out.
He may be the “most valuable” player to opt out so far, but you also have to acknowledge the defensive front is one of the deepest areas on the Bears depth chart.
With Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols set to start at the five techniques and both sliding inside in sub packages when the Bears are in a 40 front, Roy Robertson-Harris, John Jenkins, Brent Urban and Abdullah Anderson provide plenty of depth and Robertson-Harris actually rotates with Nichols and Goldman and is like a fourth starter anyway.
What could be tricky though is while Robertson-Harris and Urban can line up on the nose and have, they are really much better suited to the five technique.
An option the Bears are certain to consider is moving Nichols inside and starting Robertson-Harris on the other side from Hicks, but the first step is most likely moving Jenkins into the starting nose spot and having Nichols and Robertson-Harris continue to share reps.
The most important part of Goldman’s job is eating double teams and that is not a strength of Robertson-Harris. Hicks is the only other Bear who does it as well or better than Goldman.
Goldman is a huge loss because he’s an outstanding nose tackle, but the Bears should have the depth to handle the loss and are likely to bring in another space-eating street vet as well.
If Goldman is considered to be at high risk from the virus due to an existing health condition, he will be paid $350,000 this season, the three years remaining on his contract will begin next season as opposed to this year, and he will receive an accredited season toward free agency and vested season toward pension and retirement benefits.
If he is not at high risk, he will receive a $150,000 stipend this year as an advance against next year’s salary, his contract will be fully honored but deferred until next season and he will not receive an accredited or vested season for this year.
In an unrelated move, the Bears also waved CFL free agent cornerback Tre Roberson today due to a non-football injury, somewhat surprising only because they guaranteed him $140,000 and will take a $215,000 cap hit for him even though he never made it to Halas Hall.
The question of the hour now is how many and which of Goldman’s teammates will choose to follow his lead?