And then, there were seven…
After a brief respite, the New England Patriots continue to feel the residual effects of player concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
As first reported by Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, wide receiver Marqise Lee is planning to opt out of the 2020 season. Lee becomes the seventh Patriots player to make this choice. He joins linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, running back Brandon Bolden, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, reserve lineman Najee Toran and fullback Danny Vitale.
On Saturday, ESPN’s Mike Reiss further explained that Lee, 28, became a first-time father in February. As a result, his decision was made with the intent of protecting his newborn daughter Alia and family..
For much of his career, Lee has been a speedy, effective receiver. His most productive seasons came in 2016 and 2017 while with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He tallied career highs with 63 receptions, 851 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games during the 2016 season, and followed that up with 56 receptions for 702 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games in 2017. Lee has a total of 174 receptions, 2,184 yards and eight touchdowns in the 59 NFL games in which he has played.
Outside of these two years, [and a rookie campaign during which Lee played 13 games] he has missed significant time due to injuries. He was absent for six games in 2015, and did not play at all in 2018 because of an ACL injury. In 2019, Lee played only six games while battling a shoulder ailment.
Despite tremendous upside, Lee’s value on the open market had dropped due to injury concerns. He signed a one-year, team-friendly deal with New England in April. The deal was categorized as ‘typically Belichickian’ — meaning low-risk, potentially high-reward. He faced an uphill battle to make the Patriots roster this year, amidst formidable competition from receivers such as Jeff Thomas, Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski and others.
Lee told ESPN.com that he plans to play in 2021. His contract tolls, meaning that he is expected to remain with the Patriots next season. According to Miguel Benzan (@PatsCap) Lee’s decision sets the Patriots salary cap space number at $25,420,302. Benzan was careful to note that this number is expected to increase by $9,087,499; provided that COVID-19 Amendments to the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) indeed moves 2020 signing bonus proration into 2021. At press time, an agreement was expected, but yet to be finalized.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC