New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder announced Wednesday he is opting out of the 2020 NFL season. This development is no surprise given the health issues with his family, as Solder cited in his statement. The Solder family’s safety and wellbeing during this pandemic is most important in his decision. For the Giants, though, it also brings uncertainties they’ll have to address before the season starts.
Filling His Roster Spot
Solder’s opt out answers at least one question. The debate among Giants fans as to whether first-round rookie Andrew Thomas should start at left or right tackle is now over. With Solder out of the picture, Thomas is the only viable starting left tackle on the team. The new problem becomes who will step in to be the starting right tackle.
The Giants actually have a few intriguing options for the position. The current favorite is likely Cameron Fleming, who signed a one-year deal with New York this offseason. The former Dallas Cowboy and New England Patriot has primarily been a backup, although he started 26 games throughout his six NFL seasons. He even started for the Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship and Super Bowl. Fleming isn’t the exciting choice, as at this point in his career his upside is probably limited. But he should provide a baseline of competence the Giants could favor with a shortened offseason this year.
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Nick Gates is another player with a chance to win the job. The undrafted free agent out of Nebraska started a few games at right tackle filling in for Mike Remmers last year, and performed quite well. Gates is in contention to be the starting center this year. With Solder gone, he may be kept at right tackle if the Giants feel comfortable with another of their center options.
Then, of course, there is Matt Peart. The 2020 third-round pick out of UConn is a developmental prospect meant to be the starting right tackle in time. After Solder’s opt out, that time could be sooner than expected. Without any preseason games this year, it would be stunning for Peart to be a week-one starter. If the talented Peart shows enough progress, don’t be shocked if he gets inserted into the lineup part way through the year.
According to Overthecap, the base salary of a player who opts out will not count against the salary cap. This means that, per Spotrac, Solder’s $9.9 million base salary figure will be added to the Giants 2020 cap space. That will give them about $14.6 million to potentially sign a still available free agent, such as EDGE Jadeveon Clowney or cornerback Logan Ryan.
It’s important to note Solder’s contract will “toll”, meaning it’s basically on pause for this year. Solder’s four-year deal will now expire after the 2022 season, rather than the 2021 season as originally scheduled. The Giants may choose to roll over their cap space to next year, especially since the NFL’s expected loss in revenue this season could lower the 2021 salary cap.