Tuesday’s blizzard (a.k.a Winter Storm Skylar), was enough to make many New Englanders want to search for a new home. For some NFL free agents, who called Foxboro home in 2017, there was most likely a bit more to it than that. Those reasons are more akin to a Brinks truck, rather than a snow plow. The New England Patriots are certainly learning that lesson as Wednesday’s opening of NFL Free Agency soon approaches.
Per multiple sources, the New York Giants are expected to sign offensive tackle Nate Solder, thus ending his tenure in New England. Solder becomes the fourth impact player assumed to be leaving the Patriots for the 2018 season. On Tuesday, cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis were reported to be signing with the Tennessee Titans. Also, wide receiver Danny Amendola was figured to be leaving New England for the Miami Dolphins.
As reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Solder’s deal with New York will make him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. The four-year deal is reportedly worth $62 million, with $35 million guaranteed. On average, Solder’s annual salary will be approximately $15.5 million.
The 6-foot-8, 325-pound Solder has spent his entire career with the Patriots. New England drafted him in the 2011 first round out of the University of Colorado. He is arguably the top free-agent offensive tackle on the market. In 2018, his value was particularly evident. He played in every game and was a vital piece toward protecting quarterback Tom Brady’s blindside.
Solder was an AFC Pro Bowl alternate in 2017. It marked the first time he’s received a Pro Bowl invitation, although he didn’t play in the game because the Patriots were in Super Bowl LII. Throughout his career in Foxboro, he has played in 98 career regular-season games, with 95 starts. He has also played in 16 playoff games, starting each of those postseason contests. In 2015, he had signed a two-year. $20.62 million extensions with New England.
Big Shoes to Fill
In addition to his on-field prowess, Solder was also an exemplary role model off the field. He was the Patriots’ 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He previously overcame testicular cancer, and his son, Hudson, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016. Hudson is once again undergoing treatments, which absolutely factored into Solder’s decision, as well.
The New York Giants are not only obtaining a talented lineman, but also a great presence in the locker room, as well as the community. The Giants struggled mightily to protect quarterback Eli Manning in 2017. Solder will more than fill that need.
As for the Patriots, the ‘next man up’ will once again be put to the test. While Solder’s deal with the Giants was understandably one the Patriots (most likely) could not match, they will be left to pick up the pieces from yet another impact departure. Aside from the gaping hole left in the Patriots offensive line, Foxboro will feel the impact of Solder’s loss in many other ways.
History has taught us that the Patriots are usually able to sustain the loss of impact players better than any other team in the NFL. Therefore, it is pretty short-sighted to think that will suddenly cease to be the case. That being said, however, this one will be a tough one from which to rebound. The job of protecting the blindside of the league’s MVP comes with big shoes to fill…literally and figuratively.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC