It seemed too easy, too good to be true. After further review, it isn’t.
The letter agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association from Tuesday of this week does indeed grant broad powers to all players to opt out of the 2021 season, regardless of whether they opted out in 2020 or whether they have been diagnosed with a higher-risk condition since October 1, 2020. Although such players would be entitled to no stipend for 2021, any player who executed his most recent contract before October 1, 2020 can indeed opt out voluntarily, no questions asked as to motivation or qualification or possible ulterior motive.
This includes, most notably, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. By next Friday, July 2, he can pull the plug on the 2021 season. It would be a permanent and irrevocable decision, but he can do it.
The benefit to doing so comes from the fact that he would not forfeit $11.5 million in unearned signing bonus money for 2021 if he opts out. Also, he presumably would still receive the payments on the $6.8 million roster bonus that he earned in March, and that is due to be paid out in weekly installments during the season.
That’s $18.3 million that he’ll keep by opting out. If he doesn’t opt out but holds out, he loses that $18.3 million — and would be fined roughly $2 million on top of it for skipping training camp.
The problem with opting out is that it requires a fairly quick decision, and the decision cannot be changed. But if Rodgers truly is thinking about staying away for all of 2021, there are 20.3 million reasons for making a final and binding decision in the next seven days.