Kansas City Chiefs rookie offensive lineman and third-round pick Lucas Niang has opted out of the 2020 NFL season, becoming the third Chief to choose not to play in 2020 and the first rookie draft pick to opt out.
Niang, a rookie out of TCU, participated in the Chiefs' training camp activities and spoke to the media on July 25 before opting out prior to Thursday's deadline. Nate Taylor of The Athletic reports that the Chiefs "fully support" Niang's decision, just as they supported the decisions made by guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running back Damien Williams.
While Duvernay-Tardif and Williams opted out after a significant portion of their NFL career had already taken place, Niang's choice comes before he took his first NFL snap.
Niang had a chance to be involved in the offensive line rotation in 2020, either as a potential swing tackle behind Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and also may have been involved in the Chiefs' position battles at guard.
While it seemed most likely that Niang wouldn't start this season, it seemed likely that the plan was for Niang to learn in 2020 and give the Chiefs a chance to confidently move on from Fisher in 2021, when the Chiefs could gain $11.5 million in salary cap space if they move on from their veteran left tackle. Now, it becomes hard to see the Chiefs having full confidence in Niang's ability to protect Mahomes without him being directly involved in the 2020 process.
The Chiefs' depth at tackle is still passable, with the offseason addition of veteran Mike Remmers looking even more impactful now. Martinas Rankin is starting the offseason on the PUP list but played well in 2019 before his season-ending injury. Third-year lineman and second-year Chief Greg Senat seems more likely to make the team, and former Missouri lineman Yasir Durant also sees a clearer path to a roster spot.
Players have until 3 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out for the 2020 season.