The New England Patriots had an NFL-high eight players opt out of the 2020 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At least some of those players are expected to return in 2021.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, defensive stalwarts Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon are planning to return to the Patriots for the upcoming season.
Free agency hasn’t started, but the #Patriots are already getting some reinforcements. Their key opt-outs from 2020 — including LB Dont'a Hightower, S Patrick Chung, and OT Marcus Cannon — are planning to be back for 2021, sources say. Physically, all are in a good place.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2021
Hightower has a cap hit of $12.4 million, Cannon $9.6 million and Chung $5.1 million.
Hightower has been a key contributor to the Patriots defense since being drafted by the team in 2012. During the 2019 campaign, he finished with 5.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, 71 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hits.
The same can be said for Chung, who has spent 10 of his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Patriots. The 33-year-old finished the 2019 season with 51 tackles and one tackle for a loss.
Cannon has also been a key player for the Patriots, starting every game he's played since the 2016 season.