The 4 p.m. ET deadline on Thursday has passed, meaning unless players qualify for an exemption, no more NFL players are allowed to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns from COVID-19. In total, the Detroit Lions had three players decide to forego the upcoming season: defensive tackle John Atkins, wide receiver Geronimo Allison and center Russell Bodine.
While none of those players are necessarily big-time impacts on the Lions roster, it’s not fair to say their absence won’t be felt at all. So here’s a rundown of how each opt out affects Detroit’s 2020 season.
Heading into training camp, Atkins could have very well been the backup nose tackle on Day 1 of training camp. Last year, Atkins logged 409 snaps in that role behind Damon Harrison Sr. That kind of experience is valuable, even if Atkins was still developing and learning on the job—he entered 2019 with just 40 defensive snaps at the professional level.
Instead, the Lions will have to rely on some inexperienced players to back up Danny Shelton, the presumed starter this year. Sixth-round pick John Penisini may be the favorite to pick up the slack here, but it’s pretty clear that Atkins’ opt out forced the Lions to search elsewhere for depth, hence the claiming of Daylon Mack on Sunday.
So now the three people vying for Atkins’ job from last year—Penisini, Mack and Olive Sagapolu—have a combined nine snaps on defense in NFL.
The Lions lost another experienced player when Allison decided to opt out. While the former Packers receiver wasn’t likely to get a lot of playing time behind Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola, he could have made a good case for the WR4 or WR5 job.
Allison has more career receptions than any other receiver beyond those top three and three consecutive season with 20 or more catches. While he wasn’t likely a candidate to compete for a returner job, Allison was one of the Lions’ few bigger, physical receivers that had inside/outside versatility.
As a result, guys like rookie Quintez Cephus and Chris Lacy both have a much clearer route to the 53-man roster.
Following the pattern here, Bodine was one of the few veteran options the Lions had to back up Frank Ragnow at center after letting Graham Glasgow hit free agency. Bodine had 74 career starts under his belt, and now the Lions will likely be relying either on last year’s undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel or potentially Joe Dahl. The former hasn’t made an NFL start yet, and Dahl has never made a start at center in the NFL.
That being said, Bodine was no lock to make the roster. Despite his experience, Bodine spent most of the 2019 season absent of an NFL contract after he was released in the final cuts for the Patriots.
The Lions moved Benzschawel to center in practices late in the season in a move that was perhaps anticipating the departure of Glasgow. He likely enters camp as the best option for Detroit to back up Ragnow.