New England Patriots

The Patriots have plenty of offseason needs, especially on defense. But the offensive side of the ball deserves some attention as well, and the Pats have to decide what to do about left tackle Nate Solder.

While rumors have swirled for a while that Solder could retire this offseason, the 30-year-old could also cash in big-time as a free agent. Either way, this is probably his last chance to earn another big contract.

A new column by Mike Reiss of ESPN gauges Solder’s value on the open market, where he would likely be the best left tackle available if he becomes a UFA on March 14. The going rate for top tackles in last year’s market was in the $11-12 million range per season, which Reiss says would be “reasonable and fair” for Solder in New England.

Nate Solder waves to fans as he walks off the field after the Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 AFC Championship Game. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Nate Solder waves to fans as he walks off the field after the Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 AFC Championship Game. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Solder On The Open Market

If Solder really wanted to make top dollar, he could fetch up to $13 million in AAV from a team willing to pay. The Falcons’ Jake Matthews earned the top base salary among left tackles in 2017 at $12.496 million.

The Patriots don’t have a reliable option waiting behind Solder at left tackle. Antonio Garcia, a 2017 third-round pick, likely wouldn’t be ready. Marcus Cannon is settled in at right tackle. And Cameron Fleming is no more than a reserve tackle and not an every-snap starter. It’s not likely that the Pats find a suitable replacement in the 2018 draft either, which reportedly does not boast a strong tackle class this year.

Add Solder to the list of big decisions the Patriots need to make this offseason. It’s quite possible that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else and would take a team-friendly deal to keep playing in New England. Either way, he could be due a nice bump from his $6.5 million base salary in 2017, especially after his strong performance in Super Bowl LII.

But if Solder intends to test the free-agent market, he could complicate things for Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office.


UPDATE: Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald tweeted shortly after the publishing of this story that Solder does plan to continue playing football. However, negotiations with the Patriots have not started yet.


— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.


Sources:

— Salary information via Spotrac