KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs running back Damien Williams will opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, club general manager Brett Veach said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“As an organization, we certainly understand and respect Damien’s choice, knowing it was made in the best interest of his family,” Veach said. “He means a lot to our football team as a player and a person, and we’re going to miss having him around this season.”
The departure of Williams leaves the Chiefs without another of their starters from their Super Bowl LIV triumph. Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif announced his intention to opt out on Friday.
Williams played a pivotal role for the Chiefs in their Super Bowl win, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown while catching two passes for 29 yards and a score.
Veach told Chiefs Digest, before the announcement Williams that would not play this season, that he expected other Chiefs players might opt out for 2020.
“To sit here and say, ‘No, we’re good,’ it would be hard for me to do that, hard to be because all these guys come with a different angle and different perspective,” Veach said. “Their health and their well being and their families’ well being is most important.”
Williams sitting out the 2020 campaign leaves the Chiefs with five running backs on the roster along with fullback Anthony Sherman. The absence of Williams likely opens up the possibility of a larger role for first-round draft selection Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Darrel Williams and Darwin are also set to return in 2020. The club also has on the roster Elijah McGuire, a third-year player who spent time on the practice squad last year, and free-agent addition DeAndre Washington.
Players electing to voluntarily opt out will receive an advance of $150,000 on their 2021 salary. Players with at-risk factors for COVID-19 opting out receive a stipend of $350,000. The club’s announcement did not indicate whether Williams was considered an at-risk individual.
The contract for players who opt out will toll, which means they will essentially pause for the 2020 season. Williams has one-year remaining on his contract, which will no cover the 2021 season. The final year of the contract includes a base salary of $1.85 million with a cap hit of $2.71 million.
The deadline for players to opt out remains in limbo. The deadline is set for seven days after the league and the NFLPA issue a letter amending the collective bargaining agreement allowing the opt outs. As of now, players have until at least Aug. 5 to opt out of the 2020 season.
The Chiefs could have more players make the determination to opt out for the upcoming season, Veach said.
“As other players go through the final protocol and I’m sure they have discussions with their family members, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Veach said.