The New England Patriots' free agency continues to see the team lose key contributors: After yesterday's reports that Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler will all leave the team to play elsewhere in the future, left tackle Nate Solder is now expected to sign a four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants – a deal that will make him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history.
Let's analyze what this means for the Patriots.
Tom Brady will have a new blindside protector next year...
Ever since Tom Brady took over as the team's starting quarterback in 2001, the Patriots' left tackle position has been as steady as the come. First, it was Matt Light holding down the spot with Solder taking over after his retirement. With Solder now headed to the Giants, the Patriots are in the market for another left tackle – a priority position considering that Brady will be 41 next year.
...as New England's focus has to shift towards other options
The Patriots currently have only four offensive tackles under contract: Marcus Cannon, Andrews Jelks and Tony Garcia are all coming off stints on injury-related reserve lists, while Cole Croston has yet to start an NFL game. Needless to say, New England desperately needs to add tackle depth. Re-signing free agents Cameron Fleming and/or LaAdrian Waddle has to be highly on the team's priority list – as may be picking an offensive tackle early in the draft.
The Patriots lose another free agent to a huge contract...
Rarely do quality offensive linemen hit the open market but the Patriots still let Solder do just that. The result was him being offered the biggest contract ever for an offensive tackle – and New England will now lose yet another player to an enormous contract: Danny Amendola (two years, $12 million), Dion Lewis (four years, $23 million) and Malcolm Butler (four years, $61 million) will all sign contracts clearly outside of the Patriots' comfort zone.
...and will receive another high compensatory selection in 2019
As a result of New England losing that many high-priced free agents, the team is in line to receive a lot of 2019 compensatory draft picks. Teams can get a maximum of four and it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots get close to that, with two contracts – Solder's and Butler's – projected to earn the team a third round pick.
New England now has plenty of salary cap space to work with
The Patriots entered the legal tampering period with $21.2 million in cap space and the belief was that most of it would go towards keeping Solder. With the 29-year old headed to the Giants, however, the Patriots are left with all that money and – figuratively speaking – nobody to invest it in. Some of the cap space will be used to bring other free agents on board and don't be surprised if 2019 free agents like Trey Flowers or Brandin Cooks will see some of it as well.