Timing is everything, and for Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, instead of being able to enjoy potentially being courted by other clubs this offseason and learning his market value as a football player, he finds himself in a difficult situation where factors beyond the gridiron will likely play a big part.
A year ago, Solder’s outlook might have been different. His son, Hudson, back then, had seemed to have a more positive outlook after undergoing previous treatments for kidney cancer. The tumor he had on his kidney had seemingly stopped growing, allowing Solder and his wife, Lexi, to breathe a little easier. But this past season, the young parents found out that their son wasn’t out of the woods yet and had their worlds turned upside down again in October when they learned Hudson’s tumor had again started growing and he was forced to resume treatment.
Prior to that, almost a year had passed where things looked like they had finally taken a positive turn. Solder said back in January that it was quite a blow, but they were just forced to deal with it.
“[The tumor] wasn’t growing, wasn’t growing, wasn’t growing — boom, it started growing again, so they had to reinsert the port, start chemotherapy again, and that’s where we’re at now,” Solder said via the NY Post.
What’s surprising is that despite such an intense off-field distraction, Solder managed to still finish with another solid season. He and his wife spent each Tuesday – the team’s off day – driving to The Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston (located over 2 hours from their home) so Hudson could receive treatment, all the while having to deal with the intensity of another Super Bowl run going on. It was a lot to deal with, and anyone with a child can only marvel at the struggle he and his wife must be going through in dealing with something of this magnitude.
With free agency looming, Solder now finds himself with an opportunity to cash in for his talents on the field, but he’ll likely find himself brutally torn between the opportunity to receive a substantial raise for his family if a team outside of New England makes him an offer he can’t turn down. On the other side is the prospect of leaving the region where his son has received such terrific care.
As a result, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the team may be bracing for the possibility of losing him in the open market, but as everyone knows, there are ways to get creative when it comes to contracts. For the Patriots, their number one goal, if they want to keep him, will be making sure that they figure out some way to offset the annual salary with at least coming in close with the guaranteed money in order to keep him in the fold.
Howe reports that the two sides haven’t spoken yet but other reports have revealed that Solder’s situation is obviously well-known within the building, with owner Robert Kraft among those who have Solder’s family close to their hearts with what they’re all going through.
Solder’s kept up his half of the bargain with his play on the field and has definitely earned another big payday. Now it’s up to the team to hopefully make a difficult decision a little easier by coming close. They pulled off a similar situation last offseason with Dont’a Hightower after the linebacker reportedly received more money than he ultimately received in New England, with the team structuring the deal in a manner that obviously worked for both sides.
With quarterback Tom Brady being the team’s most important asset, making sure they have the right person protecting his blind side is obviously a priority. The team knows what they have in Solder and like other past free agents, one would have to believe they’ll get a shot at matching any offer he receives. But knowing Solder’s backstory, while money is certainly part of the equation, if the team can somehow figure out a way to make it work, that would definitely be ideal.
They’ve been through enough in the last two years, and through it all, Solder has emerged as one of the more important and endearing players in recent memory. While the NFL may be just a business, hopefully the Patriots can figure out a way to make the money work and keep Solder in the fold, while making sure that he won’t have to find a new destination on Tuesdays for his son in a new city.
It’s not often you find yourself rooting for a team to do the right thing by a player, but with such an amazing family and someone who has done all the right things since he got here, Solder will certainly be one most fans in New England will likely be rooting for in the coming months.
To make it even more clear when it comes to the type of person he is, Solder spent Friday lifting spirits of elementary school kids after three young children and an adult were found dead in West Brookfield.
According to the Worcester Telegram, the veteran tackle met with students and staff, autographing photos and posing for pictures to help brighten the day for those who were affected by the tragedy. Solder was reportedly set to hold the event in a couple of weeks, but he and his wife were moved and decided to come sooner to help.
Yet another reason to hope he sticks around.
Lewis is already reportedly garnering interest around the NFL.
Four Teams Likely in Play For Lewis – In addition to Solder, the Patriots also have the challenge of trying to keep free agent running back Dion Lewis from departing and it appears they’ll have some additional teams in play as they trying to keep their leading rusher from changing uniforms.
According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, in addition to the rival Jets and Colts, the Texans, 49ers and Raiders are potential teams that could be in play for Lewis. Florio believes up to six or seven teams could be vying for his services.
San Francisco is obviously the most intriguing as it’s an opportunity for Lewis to rejoin Jimmy Garoppolo for a 49ers team that will likely be looking to surround their new quarterback with as many weapons on offense as possible.
Lewis’ stock certainly couldn’t be any higher. He finished with a career-high 896 rushing yards during the regular season in 2017, as well as 135 more during the postseason, giving him a total of 1,031 for 2017. The next closest player was Mike Gillislee, who finished with 383 yards during the regular season.
Losing Lewis would be tough, as the Patriots would find themselves heading into 2018 with plenty of questions at a position that Lewis had solidified quite well. The Patriots are no stranger to dealing with turnover at running back, and if a bidding war ensues for Lewis, the likelihood that they’ll have to do the same next season seems like it might be a foregone conclusion if his price escalates too high.
Harmon is still feeling the sting of last month’s loss.
Harmon still not over February’s loss – If fans out there feel like they’re the only ones still anguishing over how things ended against the Eagles last month, there’s one player who still is having a tough time dealing with the outcome.
Veteran safety Duron Harmon told ESPN’s Mike Reiss that he thinks about that game all the time and he’s not yet over it.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that game. I’m pretty sure everybody on our team feels the same way,” said Harmon. “The only thing you can do is just learn from it — what put us in position to lose that game and how to never do that again.”
Despite the sting from that loss, Harmon seems upbeat about the future. He told Reiss that he’s confident that they’ll rebound and put together another good year of football when they get back to work in the months ahead.
“I always feel great about my team,” said Harmon. “Coach Belichick does a great job of putting a good team together each and every year, and getting the most out of us. As far as putting expectations on the year, I can’t do that because we’re still trying to get over the loss in the Super Bowl. ”
“Like I said, I’m glad to be a part of this team; each and every year, we play good football, we try to play it the right way, and it’s been good for us — since I’ve been here  and before I got here. I’m pretty sure Coach Belichick isn’t going to let that change, and we’ll see how that goes.”
White Gets Married – Congtratulations to running back James White, who got a different kind of ring added to his hand this weekend after marrying his girlfriend, Diana Civitello.
Former Patriots running back, LeGarrette Blount, was on hand for White’s wedding and posted a photo of his former teammate, with White looking quite dapper with his lovely wife.
Best wishes to the newlywed couple, who had their grand entrance captured on Instagram:
Despite spurning the Colts, McDaniels stock is reportedly still high around the league.
NFL Execs: McDaniels Still a Coveted Asset – Despite spurning the Colts for their head-coaching vacancy, it sounds like Josh McDaniels’ potential opportunity to be a coach in the NFL may not have suffered as much as some might have thought.
According to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, McDaniels’ stock remains high and he’ll likely get another opportunity.
FWIW: I asked a handful of execs how much Josh McDaniels’ spurning of the Colts would hurt him in attaining a future non-Pats head coaching gig. The unanimous answer: Not at all. Offensive coaches, ones who can coach QBs, are simply too valuable.
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) March 4, 2018
It’s hard not to underplay what that last part means as it pertains to New England’s immediate future. McDaniels certainly gets credit for the development of Garoppolo, and it’s hard not to breathe a little easier knowing that with him back in the fold here in New England, the chances of developing the next one are at least a little better than they would have been had he departed.
As a result, it appears that he remains in control of his future. That’s good news for a Patriots team that lost their future quarterback, but will hopefully see McDaniels develop another player to take over for the day Tom Brady is no longer under center here in New England.
If he’s able to do that, there’s no doubt that he’ll most certainly get another shot with another team if he so covets it. It’s believed that McDaniels may someday be the future head coach here in New England, so for those hoping for a bright future for the Patriots, one can only hope McDaniels can have similar success as he tries to begin doing it all over again in the coming months.
Posted Under: Daily Patriots Notebook