New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman says that you have to “dig around” to find good offensive linemen. Well, this Sunday he won’t have to dig. All Gettleman will have to do is turn on his television and watch the Super Bowl as two of the offensive linemen starting for the New England Patriots, left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Cameron Fleming, are set to become free agents.
Solder is the player most often thought of when it comes to upgrading the tackle position. Pro Football Focus lists 14 pending free agents as full-time starting offensive linemen, and Solder is the only tackle in the group. That’s an enviable position for seven-year veteran, who will be 30 next season, to be in. He will get paid handsomely by someone.
Should it be the Giants?
Why it makes sense: Well, he’s the ONLY fish in the sea when it comes to left tackles. He’s an obvious upgrade over Ereck Flowers, who could then be moved to the right side. He should have a few good seasons left.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Every team in the league looking for tackle help is going to at least inquire about Solder. He is probably going to make a ton of money — and consequently be MASSIVELY overpaid.
Is he really worth it? After allowing only 26 pressures (sacks/hits/hurries combined) in 2016, he gave up 51 in 2017. That was fifth-most among NFL offensive tackles. PFF had him 59th among offensive tackles in pass blocking efficiency. He was, though, PFF’s top-ranked run-blocking tackle.
While Solder has been a solid left tackle over the course of his career, ever since the Super Bowl last year he’s looked like a completely different player. In that game, he allowed a ludicrous 13 pressures in one of the lowest graded performances in recent memory. He followed that up with the worst season of his career this past year, allowing four-plus hurries in eight separate games. At only 29 years old, it’s unlikely he’s reached the end of his usefulness.
Walter Football says:
Nate Solder isn’t coming off his best year, as he dealt with early leg injuries and never recovered. However, he gutted it out and didn’t miss a game. Solder has struggled with health in recent years, and he’ll turn 30 in April, so he isn’t going to be rated nearly as highly as he once was.
The 25-year-old Fleming has played every position except center in four seasons with New England, but has only started 20 of 47 regular-season games. He started six in 2017.
Why it makes sense: Fleming is still young and offers positional flexibility. He comes from a winning atmosphere, and probably wouldn’t be terribly expensive. He could be looking for a team that would give him a chance to start 16 games, and he might find that with the Giants.
Why it wouldn’t make sense: The only reason I can see is that perhaps the Giants can find a player who already become a proven starter. Fleming has never started more than seven games in any season.
In 2017, Pro Football Focus ranked Fleming 28th in pass blocking efficiency among tackles and ninth in run blocking success.
Walter Football ranks Fleming as the No. 3 tackle set to hit the open market.
The Patriots lost Marcus Cannon for the season, yet didn’t skip a beat because Cameron Fleming did a good job as a replacement. Just 26 in September, Fleming has a bright future ahead of him.