The New York Giants are signing left tackle Nate Solder in free agency. That’s the good news. They are clearly overpaying to do it. That’s the bad news.
Solder, who turns 30 next month, is a good player but clearly not the best left tackle in the game. In seven seasons, he has never made a Pro Bowl or been named All-Pro. Yet, the Giants are reportedly handing him a 4-year, $62 million contract with $35 million guaranteed. The average annual value of $15.5 million per year makes him the highest-paid left tackle in football based on annual value.
Why did the Giants do this?
It’s simple. They are paying — yes, overpaying — to fix the sins of the past.
On Day 1 in his new job, GM Dave Gettleman said that his deposed predecessor, Jerry Reese was “a dear friend.” He also, though, spoke bluntly about the need to address Reese’s biggest failing as Giants GM — putting a quality offensive line in front of Eli Manning.
This is the price of beginning to fix Reese’s broken offensive line pieces. The money was clearly earmarked for All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell, a younger and better player than Solder. When Norwell took Tom Coughlin’s money and ran to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gettleman and the Giants needed a Plan B.
Solder was it.
To his credit, Gettleman didn’t sulk after losing Norwell. Chasing Norwell made sense, but even signing him would not have addressed the real issue with the Giants line — the tackle spots. The Giants weren’t expected to be major players for Solder, but the GM looked at the market and decided to spend his money on the best player still available who could shore up the weakest link.
Thus, Solder is going to be a Giant. A massively overpaid one, but a Giant. A couple of days ago, indications were that Solder’s price tag was in the neighborhood of two year and $26 million. Get a few teams involved in a bidding war, though, and prices explode. This is the cost of doing business — of fixing Reese’s broken pieces.
It is the cost of Reese stubbornly refusing to move Ereck Flowers from left tackle. Of refusing to bid for Andrew Whitworth (three years, $33.75 million with the Rams) a year ago. A better player, Whitworth is now also a less expensive one.
Flowers is no longer the left tackle. He might be the right tackle. He might be a guard. He might be a bench-warmer. He might be traded, if the Giants can find a taker. The Giants almost certainly will not pick up his fifth-year option, which they have to do by May 3.
Solder gives the Giants a competent, professional player on Manning’s blind side. After seven years in New England, you can bet he understands winning and will be a good presence in the locker room.
Here is Pro Football Focus on what the Giants are getting:
Solder ranked 44th among offensive tackles in 2017 with a 93.7 pass blocking efficiency rating (PBE measures pressure surrendered on a per-snap basis, weighted towards sacks) and he ranked 45th with a 69.8 pass blocking grade but he was 12th among tackles with an 83.2 run blocking grade.
Solder has fared much better in pass protection in previous recent seasons, signaling that 2017 may have just been a bit of a down year in that department. In 2016 he ranked 11th among tackles with a 96.2 PBE and in 2014 he ranked 14th with a PBE of 96.1 (he missed most of 2015).
There was also this:
Keep Calm #Giants fans. A little bit of context regarding Nate Solders' #32 PFF ranking last year. True, he had a poor start to the year (around the time he was dealing with a lot of personal issues), but from Week 9 on he was our 3rd rated T and 2nd rated LT.— Neil Hornsby (@PFF_Neil) March 14, 2018
Solder gives the Giants the ability to enter the draft and select a tackle in the middle rounds like Brian O’Neill of Pitt, Tyrell Crosby of Oregon, Kolton Miller of UCLA or someone else who could begin on the right side and perhaps develop into a left tackle.
Massive overpay for Solder or not, his signing makes this a good day for the Giants.