After what seemed to be the the 6th consecutive year Nate Solder has struggled with pressure and penalties early in the season, he’s once again turned it around and picked up his game when it matters the most. Some of those early season narratives about how Solder was done and shouldn’t be re-signed looks awfully short sighted now.
After starting the season by allowing 4 sacks, 4 QB hits and 1 pressure through the first 3 weeks of the season, Solder has not allowed a sack since. Solder has allowed 2 or fewer pressures in 9 out of 11 games and has 3 games where he hasn’t allowed a single pressure. While Joe Thuney has struggled immensely at left guard the last few weeks, Solder has made sure that the left side has stayed intact.
Solder is who he is: an average pass blocker and an above average to elite run blocker. He’s been the same steady player since he came out of Colorado as a raw converted TE tackle. Despite the superior run blocking guard in Shaq Mason playing on the right, the Patriots have had more success running to the left, and on more attempts. This trend is true for 2016 and earlier as well.
While it would be ideal if those skills were reversed, Patriots fans have to acknowledge how valuable a player like Solder is protecting Brady’s blind side. And they must realize how important it is to retain Solder on a long term contract. There’s no more Sebastian Vollmer to try to hold over the LT position in an emergency. Both Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle are free agents as well, and let’s be honest, neither should be a full time starting left tackle.
Tony Garcia was supposed to be the theoretical “project tackle” to be groomed, but he’s coming off of a lost year. So unless the Patriots are comfortable drafting a left tackle in the 1st round to start in 2018, Solder’s going to need to return. It’s important to note that in Solder’s last contract, he had a clause in it that made him ineligible for the franchise or transition tags.
What will Solder cost in free agency?
As Rich and others have mentioned, the offensive tackles available this offseason are terrible. Since that article was written in June, the two other big name UFA tackles signed extensions in Charles Leno (4/38.5) and Donald Penn (2/21). Neither are perfect comparisons because Solder is a much superior player to Leno, and Penn is 35.
A good comparisons for Solder, who will be 30 next year, are Reilly Reiff and Russell Okung, who signed big contracts last year. Reiff got signed at a slight discount because he played right tackle in his contract year, although he has returned to left tackle in Minnesota.
There are fewer quality tackles available, so Solder is in complete control of the market. He truly holds all of the cards as a FA that plays a premium position in a dry market.
This is a 6/84 deal with an average value of 14 million/year and 35,000,000 guaranteed. The way it’s structured, it should tie Solder to the Patriots through at least 2020, when he would be 32, at which point it becomes viable to release him. With the rising cap that should reach as high as 200 million in 2020, it’s important to put those cap hits into perspective of the new numbers.
Despite Solder’s ups and downs, I think that New England should absolutely offer him this contract and that it is worth it given left tackle contract values. While Solder’s streakiness can draw the ire of Patriots fans at times, there’s no one available that I would prefer to have protecting an aging Tom Brady’s blind side. Solder is absolutely money late in the season. Year after year.
Should the Patriots re-sign Nate Solder to a market value long-term contract after the season?
This poll is closed
No, roll with one of the Garcia/Fleming/Waddle trio
No, draft a starter in the first round of the 2018 draft