Cleveland Browns guard Drew Forbes made the difficult decision to opt out of the 2020 season over concerns with COVID-19. Working for months to be the in best shape of his life to compete for a starting guard position, dealing with the guilt of what a decision to opt out means for his teammates and his own desire to play. The financial implications are also significant for Forbes.
Forbes was scheduled to earn over $600,000 this season in base salary. That's gone. He doesn't get any of it. The money he gets, $150,000 is a cash advance, borrowing against his expected earnings in 2021. This is a huge risk for Forbes and players in general.
Teams now have to find replacements and they may find players that they feel good about it and effectively move on, keeping them in 2021. If that were to happen and a player like Forbes were to end up without a team, they now have to pay back that advance.
None of this is a vacation or a hand out. It's a difficult decision in a career that often has a short lifespan, which could drastically reduce their career earnings.
The Browns like Forbes. They will likely welcome him back with open arms next year. However, Forbes was going to be in a position to compete for the starting right guard job against Wyatt Teller in training camp this year. With Forbes now out, Teller seemingly becomes the starter by default. He's going to get far more reps this year and could benefit by improving and becoming a fixture on the line.
Forbes might miss out on his opportunity to take a starting job by opting out this year. That doesn't mean he won't ever get one, but he is putting himself behind for the sake of his safety and that of his family. Forbes has been working toward this opportunity, this dream for most of his life. Deferring it is likely one of the most difficult decisions he's ever had to make in his life.
The Browns starting offensive line for 2020 now appears set with Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin at the tackle spots, J.C. Tretter at center with Joel Bitonio and now Teller at the guard spots. In a limited amount of practices, it could prove to be advantageous for the Browns to have their line set, allowing them to get as many reps as possible together to form them into a high functioning unit.
The Browns suffer a big drop off when it comes to the depth on the interior of the offensive line. Whoever lost the job for the starting job between Teller and Forbes, they were assured they'd have a good option in case of injury. Now, that security is gone and they have to find someone who can step into that role of reliable depth.
Colby Gossett and Malcolm Pridgeon are the next men up on the roster currently at guard. Evan Brown, Willie Wright and rookie Nick Harris are all listed as centers, but they all have played guard to varying degrees. Harris, undersized for a guard, has the most experience, having played guard at Washington for a few seasons before moving to center. Brown has the most experience at guard in the NFL.
The Browns are likely going to be looking at options coming from other teams, whether it's from teams cutting down to 80 or when teams cut down to 53. Nevertheless, the Browns have excellent depth at tackle, addressed their backup center spot, but now find themselves potentially needing to go find an answer to ensure the guard position.