The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. Among the veterans looking for a new deal are Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater. There are other veterans such as Brandon Bolden, James Harrison, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming who have played significant roles at times and have been limited in others.
While the team has a limited amount of cap space, right now… they should be retooling a few contracts or cutting their ties with some players soon which will create more cap space.
We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the key players facing free agency is left tackle Nate Solder.
This is where things begin to get very interesting. Solder, and backup tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are all free agents this spring. That means three out of the four tackles utilized by the team in 2017 could conceivably be gone in 2018.
The Patriots thought they drafted their left tackle of the future last spring when they took Antonio Garcia in the draft. But Garcia never stepped foot on the field and spent the season on the NFI (non-football injury list) as a result of an illness. Garcia is down to only about 260 pounds right now, so not only is there uncertainty about his playing ability because they really don’t know what they have in him yet but medically as well. Will he even be ready to go this summer? That is a lot of question marks pertaining to the guy who must protect Tom Brady’s blind side.
Why Solder Will Return: The Patriots drafted Solder in the first round, (17th overall) in 2011. He’s started 95 of 98 games he’s appeared in and has been pretty durable, playing thru a variety of ailments including testicular cancer a few years ago. He did have a torn bicep in 2015, where he missed the last 11 games.
The Patriots need Solder this upcoming season. They have capable backups in Waddle and Fleming, who can fill in for a game or two, but as starting left tackles? No. And with the dearth of tackles in free agency this season, they know they can’t lowball Solder’s offer too much or risk losing him.
Solder is still a very good left tackle, there was some thought that he may opt for retirement but he probably has one or possibly two years left before he decides to hang it up. With questions regarding his heir apparent, the team will either have to draft another tackle (a definite possibility) or retain Solder for one more year. Solder has played in four Super Bowls protecting Tom Brady’s blindside and has the big game experience that the team wants. He’s a proven performer and the Patriots will probably be able to retain his services for about the same amount of cash he earned in 2017.
At 30 years old this fall, Solder still has plenty of tread left on the tires.
Why Solder Won’t Return: There are a couple of considerations to think about here. One is Solder was contemplating retirement according to some rumors this fall. His own health issues coupled with the return of cancer to his young son, reportedly had him thinking about possibly hanging it up. If so, that would be the one situation where he’d be adamant about not returning.
As we mentioned above, there is a lack of quality tackles hitting free agency this season. With Solder just about to turn 30 in April, he could command some very decent offers. One team in dire need of a tackle is the Denver Broncos, and Solder played his college football in Colorado. They’d love to steal Solder away from New England.
The Patriots aren’t in a great position salary cap wise, so they won’t be able to overspend for Solder or anyone else this spring unless they start cutting other players or redoing some of the other contracts out there.
Bottom Line: The Patriots would like to have Solder back this season and truth be told, much like Josh McDaniels, family considerations may play a very large part in Nate Solder’s decision to remain in New England or to leave either in free agency or retirement.
With his son going thru another bout of chemotherapy, he and wife may want to keep their family close to the doctors that have treated his son Hudson at Boston Children’s Hospital. They have trust in the staff there and tied to them in the community as well.
He’s a very well respected member of the team by both the players and coaches. The 6’8, the 320-pound left tackle has been very good since entering the NFL. He’s sure to generate plenty of interest from other teams. And a few may opt to throw big money dollars in his direction. There is a stipulation in his contract that he can’t be franchised, so, that option is off the table.
Our feeling here is that he will return to New England or retire. While we may be way off on this one (not like we are batting 1.000 on these things), that is how we see it playing out. I think if the Patriots offer him close to what he earned in 2017, then the chances of Solder returning are much better and seeing him in a Patriots uniform in 2018.
We feel that the chances of him returning to New England are better than 50/50 this summer. Somewhere around 60/40 in favor of him playing at least one more season protecting Brady. Now the question remains, who else (Waddle or Fleming) will the Patriots resign and will Garica be able to resume his football career, which means working himself back up to weight and gaining the 40-50 pounds he lost?