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Nate Solder plans to continue playing football in 2018; has not yet entered free agency talks with Patriots

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Solder will return in 2018. The question is with which team.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-New England Patriots Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On the New England Patriots' list of free agents to be, starting left tackle Nate Solder is probably the number one priority due to his experience, proven quality and the fact that the team seems to lack a viable contingency plan. While it has to be expected that he will ultimately re-sign with the Patriots, player and team have not yet entered negotiations on a new contract.

The Boston Herald's Jeff Howe reported this inactivity on Thursday and also offered another bit of information regarding Solder's future:

Nate Solder does indeed plan to continue playing football, per sources. There had been speculation over a potential retirement. Negotiations with the Patriots haven’t started yet, but he’s got a couple weeks before free agency.

Let's break this down one-by-one: As Howe notes, there had been speculation about Solder potentially stepping away from the game in order to spend more time with his family. After all, Solder's wife gave birth to the couple's second child – daughter Charlie – last April and his son Hudson is still undergoing cancer treatments. Seeing the 29-year old step away from the game would therefore have not been that big of a surprise.

With Solder planning to continue football, however, the focus shifts back on potential negotiations with the Patriots. Seeing them not yet underway is nothing out of the ordinary as New England's front office usually has a patient approach when it comes to contract talks. Negotiations between the two sides will likely begin over the next two weeks, though, and continue even if Solder entered free agency on March 14.