The New England Patriots lost their number one priority free agent to the New York Giants: Offensive tackle Nate Solder signed a four-year, $62 million dollar contract – a deal that makes him the highest-paid offensive lineman in all of football. Solder, who won two Super Bowls in seven seasons in New England, addressed the media today for the first time and offered some insights on leaving the team that drafted him 17th overall in 2011.
One of the most notable tidbits from the 29-year old was him telling that the Patriots and Giants both offered him “somewhat equal money”, according to The Athletic's Patricia Traina. Of course, the statement leaves a lot of room for interpretation that will never be fully explained without knowing the exact details of New England's offer to its long-time starting left tackle.
However, as Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal explained on Twitter, the structure of the contract is equally important as the money associated to the deal:
Structure matters. No 46-man active roster bonuses in Nate Solder’s contract with the Giants. 46-man active roster bonuses are standard in the Patriots contract. Nate Solder’s last deal with the Patriots contained a Pro Bowl incentive. No incentives in his contract w/ the Giants [...] When Tom Brady has 46-man active roster bonuses for 2018 can not see the Patriots making Nate Solder an exception
When the Patriots and Solder agreed to a two-year contract extension in 2015, the contract also included roster bonuses: The veteran, arguably one of top-10 left tackles in the NFL, received $31,250 for every game he was active during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Appearing in 31 of New England's 32 games, Solder was therefore able to earn an additional but previously non-guaranteed $968,750.
No such bonus money is included in the deal that Solder ultimately signed with New York. So while, yes, the total money might have been “somewhat equal”, the structure and added guarantees could very well have made the difference in favor of New York.
[UPDATE 03/16, 11:09 pm ET]: The transcribed quote shows that Traina's initial report was not an entirely correct one:
There were three really good teams that were kind of in the running and it came down to a couple of things. The money was all somewhat equal and it just came down to where my family was going to be most comfortable.
As NBC Boston Sports' Tom Curran added, the Patriots made a solid offer last week that would have made Solder one of the highest-paid offensive tackles in the NFL. However, New England's offer was reportedly not equal to New York's so the three teams Solder is talking about might have been the Giants, the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns.