Tagged in: defense

Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower to opt out of 2020 season

A huge piece of the New England Patriots’ defense has decided to opt out of the 2020 season.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower will opt out of the season, NFL Network’s Michael Giardi confirmed Tuesday.

Hightower became a first-time father on July 16. His mother also has Type 2 diabetes.

According to an agreement approved by both the league and the NFL Players Association, players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out. Players who voluntarily opt out of the campaign will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will toll.

“Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” Hightower told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

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Hightower’s foundation annually raises money for the American Diabetes Association, which has important meaning to him as his mother, L’Tanya, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Hightower keeps a picture of his mother at his locker.

Hightower was booked to earn a base salary of $8 million in the final year of his contract, which will roll over to 2021.

The decision is a big blow to a Patriots defense already undergoing a transition with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts leaving via free agency.

Hightower is a thumper in the middle of the Pats defense who has the flexibility to rush the passer. Per Pro Football Focus, Hightower led all off-ball linebackers in total pressures over the past three seasons with 80. The loss is important from an on-field production and a locker-room leadership standpoint for Bill Belichick’s squad.

Hightower is the fifth Patriots player to opt out of the 2020 season. Running back Brandon Bolden will also not play in 2020, per Giardi. Right tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran also opted out.

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Browns DE Vernon restructures contract, will get $11 million guaranteed in 2020

The Cleveland Browns have renegotiated defense end Olivier Vernon’s contract, an unnamed source told ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates.

Vernon was set to make $15.25 million, non-guaranteed, in 2020.

Now, Vernon gets $11 million guaranteed through a $7 million signing bonus, $3.75 million in base salary and a $250,000 workout bonus, according to Yates.

Vernon, 29, is also entitled for $2 million more in incentives.

There were reports earlier this offseason of the Browns’ interest in signing free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney, 27, and Griffen, 32, remain free agents as of Tuesday morning.

However, OverTheCap.com showed the Browns had $37.27 million left in cap space before renegotiating Vernon’s deal.

It means the Browns still could add either Clowney or Griffen and keep Vernon.

At the same time, the Browns likely need to let some of the salary cap space roll over to next offseason to offer Garrett a contract extension.

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Garrett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the league and is due to make $4.61 million this season.

The Browns already picked up Garrett’s fifth-year option in 2021, which is worth $15.18 million.

In the offseason, Pro Football Focus reporter Ben Linsey ranked Garrett and Vernon as the second-best edge defender duo in the NFL.

In 2019, Vernon played in 10 matches, compiling 26 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits and a career-low 3.5 sacks.

Pro Football Focus graded Vernon as the Browns’ third-highest graded pass rusher.

Vernon missed three games after injuring his knee during a Week 9 loss to the Denver Broncos.

In Week 13 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vernon played only 10 snaps before missing three more games.

Vernon played in the regular-season finale versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Injuries forced Vernon to miss time during the last three seasons, playing in 11 games for the Giants in 2018 and 12 games in 2017.

However, Vernon did not miss a game during his first five seasons in the league from 2012-2016. Headed into the 2020 season, Vernon is entering the final year of his contract after the Browns acquired him in a trade with the New York Giants.

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Luiz future at Arsenal in doubt

David Luiz could be set for an Arsenal exit just one year after arriving from Chelsea.

The Gunners paid their west London rivals £8 million ($9.8m) to sign the Brazil international last summer, with the centre-back completing his shock move across the capital on deadline day.

And despite some high profile errors, Luiz has become persistent in the heart of the Arsenal defense, both under Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, who was appointed in December following Emery’s dismissal.

Luiz has featured in all but one of Arteta’s 15 matches in charge and has often spoken in glowing terms of the Spaniard’s methods.

“Mikel is doing amazing, I am enjoying being almost 33 years old and still learning and improving and to see how beautiful football is,” Luiz told Adidas in April.

“Every day he changes something more and how a new idea and philosophy can still improve me as a person, as a player and as a leader.” But despite his close relationship with Arteta, Luiz could soon be on the look out for a new club – with Arsenal still to start talks over activating the clause in his contract which would see him stay at Emirates Stadium for another season.

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The Gunners do have William Saliba arriving this summer following his loan spell with Saint Etienne and are also expected to sign Pablo Mari on a permanent deal from Flamengo.

Mari, a naturally left-footed centre-back, would be in direct competition with Luiz, given both prefer to play as the left-sided central defender in a back four.

However, Luiz has publicly stated he has no issues moving to accommodate the Spaniard, who arrived in January on an initial loan deal.

Luiz is one of the highest earners at Arsenal and the north London club are looking to drastically lower their wage bill amid the increasing financial implications being caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The Gunners are predicted to lose up to £144m ($177m) if the entire 2020-21 season is played behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Arsenal could start full contact training as early as Thursday after Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to step up plans for a return to action.

Players have been training in groups of up to five since last week, but with social distancing guidelines still in place.

But during a Premier League shareholder meeting on Wednesday, clubs agreed to resume full contact training once again ahead of the league’s planned resumption next month.

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