All five of Cleveland Browns opt-outs were on the offensive and defensive line.
The NFL’s deadline for players to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic passed on Thursday at 4 p.m. The Cleveland Browns officially had five players opt-out of the season, which was the second-most in the league.
All five of Cleveland’s opt-outs were linemen. Four were offensive linemen, as Drew Forbes, Drake Dorbeck, Colby Gossett, and Malcolm Pridgeon all opted-out. The only defensive player to opt-out was defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
Billings and Forbes were the Browns only “high-profile” players to opt-out, as both were expected to have significant roles in 2020. Dorbeck, Gossett and Pridgeon were all depth players who were not expected to make the Browns 55-man roster.
The Browns signed Billings this offseason to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. His contract will toll until next season. However, Billings was going to play a key role on Cleveland’s defense in 2020, as he was positioned to be Cleveland’s run stuffing defensive tackle. After Cleveland struggled to stop the run in 2019, Billings was going to fill a big need.
Forbes was going to be in the thick of the competition for Cleveland’s starting right guard job. After missing most of the 2019 season due to injury, this would have been the first opportunity for Forbes to earn a significant role with the Browns. Had he not won the starting job, he would have been Cleveland’s backup guard.
Although Dorbeck, Gossett and Pridgeon were not expected to make the roster, Gossett and Pridgeon became more important once Forbes decided to opt-out. Gossett and Pridgeon were the only remaining guards on Cleveland’s active roster other than starters Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller.
Now that Gossett and Pridgeon joined Forbes on the opt-out list, Cleveland is left with only two guards on the active roster. This is going to force the Browns to either sign free agents to add depth or experiment with linemen currently on their roster to see if they have the versatility to play guard.
Although the Browns may not have lost too many key players due to the opt-outs, it has caused them to rework their roster. It would not be surprising if the Browns decide they need to sign a free agent or two to replace Billings on the defensive line or to add depth on the offensive line.
A total of 66 players decided to opt-out of the 2020 season, as the New England Patriots had the most players opt-out with eight. The Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only teams who did not have a player opt out.