The New England Patriots have locked up their left tackle Nate Solder for two more years, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. The extension was an inevitability due to the Patriots knocking on the salary cap. Per Schefter, the deal is worth $20.62 million over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
9:57 am edit: Per Fox Sports Mike Garafolo, Solder also has Pro Bowl incentives worth $1.5 million.
9:59 am edit: Per NFLN's Ian Rapoport, the contract is fully guaranteed?!
10:15 am edit: Per the Herald's Jeff Howe, the 2015-16 portions are guaranteed, while the 2017 portion isn't. That makes more sense and allows salary cap to be pushed down the line.
Solder will be able to hit the market as a 29-year-old for one final major contract.
Solder was elected to be a first-time team captain for the 2015 season and is heralded by the Patriots coaching staff as a model player and citizen. Solder costs $7.44 million in cap space for the 2015 season, ranking 14th in the league.
The contract extension likely frees up cap space for the 2015 season by converting some money into a signing bonus.
The average of $10.31 million over the 2016-17 seasons will rank 6th, behind Eagles tackle Jason Peters and his $10.325 million average. If Solder achieves his Pro Bowl incentives, he will jump into 4th place, ahead of Peters and Broncos tackle Ryan Clady.
With Solder under contract, the Patriots really don't have many priority 2016 signings. Sealver Siliga will be a restricted free agent, while others like Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher, and captain Ryan Wendell fit the journeyman veteran mold.
The Patriots will now be able to turn their focus to 2017 free agents like cornerstone players linebacker Dont'a Hightower and edge defender Chandler Jones. Other names include linebacker Jamie Collins (can't sign until after the 2015 season), Rob Ninkovich, Brandon LaFell, and Sebastian Vollmer.