Do NFL Players Get Paid Opting Out of the 2021 Season? Exploring the Financial Implications

Do NFL players get paid opting out? It’s a question that many football fans have been asking themselves lately. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the landscape of sports, and American football is no exception. With player safety being of the utmost importance, many athletes have been opting out of the upcoming season. But what does this mean for their compensation? Do they still get paid even if they’re not on the field?

This is a topic that has been heavily debated in the sports world over the past few months. Some people argue that players should not be paid if they choose to sit out the season for safety reasons. After all, the NFL has implemented a number of protocols to ensure the safety of players who do choose to play, so why should those who opt out still receive a paycheck? On the other hand, many argue that players should be compensated regardless of whether or not they play. After all, they’re still putting their bodies on the line by practicing and preparing for the season, even if they don’t actually step foot on the field during a game.

It’s a complicated issue, and one that doesn’t seem to have a straightforward answer. But as the NFL season approaches, it’s something that fans and players alike will be keeping a close eye on. Will players who opt out be paid? And if so, how much? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in the world of sports, and the NFL is no exception.

NFL Opt-Out Rules and Regulations

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes in every aspect of life and the NFL is no exception. In an effort to keep players, coaches, and staff members safe from the virus, the NFL has come up with a set of regulations and rules regarding player opt-outs. Let us take a closer look at the opt-out rules and regulations in the NFL:

  • Deadline for Opt-Out: The NFL has set a deadline for players to opt-out of the 2021 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Players have until August 3, 2021, to inform their teams of their intentions to sit out the season. Any changes in the public health situation necessitating an adjustment to this deadline will be communicated to the players and teams.
  • Eligibility for Opt-Out: Players in the NFL are eligible to opt-out for the 2021 season if they fall into two categories:
  • Category 1 Category 2
    High-risk or medically vulnerable players, as determined by NFL and NFLPA medical experts Players who have had at least one accrued season in the NFL and received a stipend for opting out last season. Teams can also offer opt-outs to players at their discretion.
  • Compensation for Opt-Out: Players in Category 1 will receive a $350,000 stipend for the 2021 season, and their contracts will toll to the following year. For players in Category 2, the stipend will be $150,000, and their contracts will toll to the following year. Players who opt-out of the season will not receive an accrued season towards free agency or their pensions.
  • Roster Implications: Teams that have players opt-out of the season will receive a $500,000 salary cap credit, but the corresponding bonuses that would be put on next year’s cap will remain. Players that opt-out will not count towards the team’s active roster or practice squad.
  • Return to Play: Players that opt-out of the season will be eligible to return to play the following year and will be under contract with their respective teams, assuming they did not retire. They must also inform their teams of their intent to return by a specified date determined by the league and the NFLPA.

The NFL has taken a measured and thorough approach to player opt-outs amidst the pandemic, prioritizing safety while balancing the competitive needs of the league. It remains to be seen how many players will ultimately opt-out of the 2021 season, but the NFL’s clear and transparent regulations should provide some clarity to the situation.

Financial implications of opting out for NFL players

Opting out of the NFL season has significant financial implications for players, especially those who are not high earners. Here are some of the ways opting out can impact NFL players financially:

  • No salary for the season: Players who opt-out of the season will not receive their salary for the year. This can be a significant financial blow, especially for players on minimum contracts or lower salaries.
  • Loss of signing bonus: Some players receive a signing bonus, which is paid upfront and counts towards the player’s salary. If a player opts out of the season, they may have to give back a portion of their signing bonus or forfeit it entirely.
  • No incentives: Many NFL contracts include incentives for achieving certain performance targets, such as number of sacks or touchdowns. Opting out means players will miss the opportunity to earn these incentives.

It’s important to note that higher-earning NFL players may be more able to withstand the financial impact of opting out, as they may have higher guaranteed salaries or more savings. However, for many players, opting out of the NFL season can have serious financial consequences.

Salary cap impact

Opting out of the NFL season also has implications for the league’s salary cap. The salary cap is the limit on the amount of money teams can spend on player salaries, and is determined by the league’s revenue.

When a player opts out of the season, their salary is removed from the team’s salary cap. However, any signing bonus or other bonuses paid to that player will still count towards the team’s cap. This can create some complications for teams, especially in cases where multiple players opt out, as teams may have less cap space available than originally anticipated.

Implications for Teams Explanation
Less room for new signings If multiple players opt out, teams may have less salary cap space available to sign new players.
Forfeited signing bonus If a player opts out, they may have to forfeit a portion of their signing bonus, which will count towards the team’s cap.
Potential cap rollover Teams may be able to roll over unused cap space to future seasons, which could provide some relief if multiple players opt out.

Overall, opting out of the NFL season can have significant financial implications for players. While some may be able to absorb the hit more easily than others, it’s important for players to carefully consider the potential costs and benefits of opting out before making a decision.

Reasons why NFL players opt out

Opting out is a voluntary decision for NFL players to not participate in a season due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are three reasons why NFL players opt out.

  • Medical concerns: Some NFL players have opted out due to medical concerns that put them at a higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. This includes players with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, sickle cell anemia, or a compromised immune system, as well as players who live with vulnerable family members. For these players, the risk of contracting COVID-19 while playing football is simply too high.
  • Mental health concerns: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health, and NFL players are no exception. Some players have cited concerns about the isolation and loneliness that comes with living in a “bubble” environment, away from friends, family, and the support system of their team. Others have expressed concerns about the stress and anxiety of being in a high-risk environment for an extended period of time.
  • Personal reasons: NFL players may also opt out for personal reasons, such as a desire to focus on family or a belief that playing a season during a pandemic is not worth risking their health or the health of others. Additionally, some players may opt out as a result of contract negotiations, deciding to sit out a season as a show of leverage in ongoing talks with their team or as a means of preserving their health and longevity for future seasons.

Financial implications of opting out

While NFL players who opt out due to medical concerns will receive a stipend of $350,000, those who opt out for other reasons will not receive compensation for the season. Additionally, their contract will toll, meaning that the year will be pushed back to the following season, and their salary for that season will remain the same. This can have significant financial implications for NFL players, who typically have short careers and must maximize their earnings while they can.

Player Reason for opting out Financial implications
Dont’a Hightower Medical concerns Will receive $350,000 stipend
Nate Solder Family concerns Will not receive compensation for season; contract will toll
Maurice Canady Personal reasons Will not receive compensation for season; contract will toll

While opting out may be a tough decision for NFL players to make, it is ultimately a personal one that reflects their values, priorities, and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19 on NFL opt-out decisions

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the NFL, prompting drastic changes in the league’s protocols to ensure players’ safety. Here’s how COVID-19 impacted the decision of NFL players to opt-out:

  • Fear of contracting the virus: With the pandemic still ongoing, players’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 became more significant than ever. This fear was heightened by the NFL’s lack of bubble-like conditions, unlike other sports’ leagues such as the NBA. As a result, players who were deemed high-risk or had pre-existing medical conditions chose to opt-out to protect themselves and their families.
  • Affecting family members: NFL players are not only responsible for their well-being but also of their loved ones, particularly for players with immunocompromised family members. Players who opt-out had to think about their families’ exposure to the virus if they played, which became the riskiest decision they made.
  • Playing for a shortened season: The uncertainty surrounding the NFL season’s length and format due to the pandemic was a factor in the decision-making process. With so many unknowns, players had to decide if they would opt-out and skip just one season or risk playing amid the pandemic and prolonging their career’s possible injuries and setbacks.

The table below demonstrates the number of NFL players who opted out in the 2020 season:

Team Number of Players Opting Out
New England Patriots 8
Dallas Cowboys 5
Kansas City Chiefs 4
Baltimore Ravens 3
Washington Football Team 3

Although opting-out allowed players to prioritize their safety and that of their loved ones, it has its consequences. Players who opt-out of the season don’t receive their base salary for that year, which may lead to financial difficulties, especially if they have not built a considerable fortune yet. Additionally, opting-out affects their experience, exposure, and career trajectory, especially for younger players aiming to make a name for themselves or sign a lucrative contract in the future.

Comparison of Opt-Out Policies in Different Sports Leagues

Opting out of playing in a season is not a new concept in the world of sports. Several leagues in different parts of the world have rules to allow players to take a break from the game if they need to. Let’s take a closer look at how opt-out policies differ in popular sports leagues.

  • National Basketball Association (NBA): The NBA allows players to opt-out of playing in a season, but only under certain conditions. If a player has a medical condition that poses a high risk if they play, they can opt-out and still receive their full salary. If a player simply does not wish to play for personal reasons, they can opt-out, but will not receive payment for the games they miss. Players who opt-out for personal reasons must inform their team at least five days before the start of the season.
  • National Hockey League (NHL): The NHL’s opt-out policy for the 2020-2021 season recognizes the unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Players have the option to opt-out for any reason and still receive their full salary, but their contract will roll over to the following season. Players who wish to opt-out have to inform their team by a specific deadline set by the NHL.
  • Major League Baseball (MLB): The MLB has a detailed opt-out policy that revolves around a player’s health. If a player has a medical condition that puts him at high risk for COVID-19, he can opt-out and still receive pro-rated salary and service time. Players who opt-out for personal reasons only receive money if they are classified as high-risk by league doctors, and their contract is extended for one year. The MLB allows players to opt-out of playing anytime during the season.

It is important to note that opt-out policies change from season to season depending on circumstances. For example, the NHL’s opt-out policy in previous years only allowed players to opt-out with a valid medical reason. However, the 2020-2021 season was different due to the ongoing pandemic. As sports leagues continue to evolve, it is important to keep an eye on any changes in opt-out policies.

Consequences of opting out for an NFL player’s career

When an NFL player opts out of a season, it can have a significant impact on their career trajectory. Here are some of the consequences:

  • Missed playing time: Opting out of a season means that a player will miss out on valuable playing time, which could hurt their development or cause them to fall behind their peers. This is especially true for young players who are still trying to establish themselves in the league.
  • Loss of income: Depending on the terms of their contract, a player who opts out may not receive their full salary for the season. For some players, this can result in a significant financial hit.
  • Lost opportunities: Players who opt out may miss out on opportunities to showcase their skills, which could hurt their chances of securing a starting role or earning a new contract in the future.

In addition to these consequences, there are also some specific factors that can impact how opting out affects an individual player’s career:

Injury history: If a player has a history of injuries or has recently suffered a significant injury, opting out could be a smart move to protect their long-term health. However, if that player is already seen as injury-prone, opting out could reinforce that perception and hurt their future prospects.

Age and experience: Opting out may have a different impact on a player depending on where they are in their career. A veteran player with a solid track record and established relationships in the league may be better equipped to weather the consequences of opting out, while a younger player may struggle to bounce back.

Player Type Impact of Opting Out
Veteran with established reputation Minimal impact
Young player still establishing themselves Potentially significant impact
Injury-prone player Could reinforce negative perception of their career

Ultimately, the decision to opt out of an NFL season is a personal one that depends on a variety of factors. While there are certainly consequences to consider, players should prioritize their health and well-being above all else.

How Opt-Out Decisions Can Affect an NFL Team’s Season

Opting out is a big decision for NFL players, and it can have a significant impact on their teams’ performance. Here are seven ways that opt-out decisions can affect an NFL team’s season:

  • Loss of talent: When a player opts out, it can result in a significant loss of talent for the team. This loss can be felt especially hard if the player is a star player or a key contributor in a specific position on the team.
  • Depth issues: Losing a player to opt-out means that the team will have to rely on their backups to fill the hole, and if there is a lack of depth in the position, it can cause problems for the team’s overall performance.
  • Team cohesion: Opting out can cause team cohesion issues because it can disrupt the dynamics of the team. Teams put in countless hours of practice and effort to work cohesively together, and losing a key player can throw a wrench into the team’s dynamic.
  • Increased workload: Losing a player means that the remaining players will have to take on additional responsibilities. This increase in workload can lead to increased fatigue and injury risk, and it can also lead to a decline in overall performance.
  • Financial implications: Teams may be impacted financially if a player decides to opt-out. Opting out does not necessarily mean those players lose their salary completely, but it does mean that their salary will not count towards the team’s salary cap, leaving the team with less money to work with when signing new players.
  • Forgone development: Opting out can result in a player missing a significant amount of time, which means they could be missing opportunities to develop their skills and improve their game. This lost development time can cause the player to lose their edge and fall behind compared to their teammates.
  • Audience perception: Finally, opting out can affect audience perception of the team. Fans may see opt-outs as a sign of weakness or a lack of commitment from the team. This perceived weakness can snowball into a loss of fan support and lower morale within the team itself.


Opting out is no minor decision for NFL players, and it can have a significant impact on their team’s season. Losing a key player can impact all aspects of the team’s performance, from talent and team cohesion to financial planning and audience perception. While the decision to opt-out is a personal one, it’s clear that the impact of this decision ripples through the entire team.

Frequently Asked Questions about NFL Players Opting Out Payment

Q: Do NFL players get paid if they opt out?
A: Yes, NFL players who opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns can receive a stipend of $150,000 or $350,000 depending on their health status.

Q: What happens if a player opts out after reporting to training camp?
A: If a player chooses to opt out after reporting to training camp, they will still receive a stipend, but the amount will be prorated based on the number of days they spent in camp.

Q: Will opting out affect a player’s contract?
A: No, opting out will not affect a player’s contract. The player will maintain their contract status and will resume their contract the following season.

Q: Can a player opt out if they have already signed their franchise tag?
A: Yes, players who have signed their franchise tag can still opt out of the season. They will receive the same stipend as any other player who opts out.

Q: How does opting out affect a team’s salary cap?
A: Opting out does not affect a team’s salary cap. The player’s salary for the season will not count towards the team’s cap.

Q: Can a player who has already opted out change their mind and return to play during the season?
A: No, once a player has opted out, they cannot change their mind and return to play during the season. They will miss the entire season and can only return the following year.

Q: What happens if a player gets sick with COVID-19 after opting out?
A: If a player gets sick with COVID-19 after opting out, they will not receive any further payment or benefits from the NFL.

Closing Thoughts on NFL Players Opting Out Payment

Thanks for reading this FAQ on NFL players opting out payment. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for players to consider their health and safety, and know their options. The NFL is doing its best to provide support and assistance for players who opt out, and we hope this article has helped clarify some questions. Be sure to check back for more updates and news on the NFL.