New England Patriots

Nate Solder is about to hit the open market. And the Patriots will probably need to pay up in order to keep their left tackle.

Much like it is for Danny Amendola, Solder’s market is “heating up” according to a new report by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Sources say Solder could field offers north of $12 million annually as a free agent, which would be consistent with deals give to other top tackles in 2017.

Solder still prefers to return to the Patriots, which is no surprise. But the Pats reportedly can’t count on getting a “hometown discount” this time. Though they may not have to be the highest bidder for Solder, they will need to make a “competitive” offer compared to others he’ll get around the league.

Nate Solder celebrates with his son Hudson after the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Nate Solder celebrates with his son Hudson after the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Plan B?

The Patriots reportedly haven’t made any offers to Solder just yet. It’s likely that, similar to other recent free agents like Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Julian Edelman, they will let him field offers on the open market before making their own. The difference this time is that Solder is likely to see offers that would make him the highest-paid tackle in the NFL.

If Solder ends up leaving for another team, the Pats would be in a bit of a bind at left tackle. Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle would be the most likely candidates to take over. They like 2017 third-round pick Tony Garcia, but he reportedly missed his entire rookie season due to blood clots in his lungs and has no timetable for a return.

So the Patriots have good reason to pay Solder at or near the top of the free-agent market in order to keep him around for the foreseeable future. But at the same time, this is Solder’s last chance to maximize his value. His impending free agency remains one of the most crucial decisions the Patriots have to make – and they have lots of those.

— 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.