Was signing Nate Solder to an expensive free agent contract prior to the 2018 season a good move or a bad one by New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman?
Let’s look at Solder, and debate that question, as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
Position: Left tackle
How he got here
After seven solid seasons protecting the blind side of Tom Brady for the New England Patriots, Solder cashed in by signing a rich four-year, $62 million contract ($34.8 million guaranteed) with the Giants. At the time, the deal made him the league’s highest-paid left tackle.
Solder struggled at the beginning of 2018, allowing six sacks and 20 total quarterback pressures in the Giants’ first eight games. Perhaps part of that was adjusting to a new team, new offense and new quarterback. Perhaps part of it was playing next to rookie Will Hernandez, who was going through his own growing pains.
Solder, though, was excellent the second half of the season. He allowed just one sack and 13 pressures over the final eight games.
Pro Football Focus said:
Solder was a reliable pass-blocker; he was one of just nine players to log at least 500 snaps in pass protection at left tackle while surrendering a pressure rate no greater than 5.0%. ...
As a run-blocker, Solder ranked eighth out of those 17 players who saw at least 1,000 snaps at left tackle last season with a 63.4 run-blocking grade, but the veteran tackle had a bit of a volatile season when it came to run blocking. Out of the 23 left tackles who saw at least 300 run-blocking snaps, he ranked eighth with an impact run-block percentage of 8.6%, but he also recorded the seventh-highest negatively graded run-block percentage, at 12.5%.
For comparison, with the Pats from 2011-2017, Solder had an impact run-block percentage of 11.1%, and his negatively graded run-block percentage was just 7.4%.
Solder had a solid debut season in New York. He performed slightly above average compared to the rest of his career in terms of pass protection — prior to 2018 he allowed pressure on 6.0% of his pass-blocking snaps.
In the end, Solder’s overall performance was right in line with what he has done throughout his career. A 74.1 Pro Football Focus grade was his seventh straight season with a score above 70.0, and placed him 16th among 33 tackles who payed 900 or more snaps in 2018. His pass blocking efficiency rating of 96.8 was 12th among 23 qualifying tackles. The seven sacks and 33 pressures he allowed were in line with his career averages of 5.9 sacks and 38.0 pressures allowed.
The overall numbers, and the fact that Solder emerged as the leader of the team’s offensive line, meant in the end that the Giants got exactly what they paid for. At least from this viewpoint.
Solder and Hernandez (no sacks allowed over the final nine games) played exceptionally well together during the second half of the 2018 season. That brings optimism that the left side of the Giants’ offensive line could be excellent in 2019. What Solder is as a player is well established at this point, and the continued development of Hernandez should be a plus.
Solder did miss all of the spring practices due to ankle surgery, but indications have been that he should be ready to go for training camp in a couple of weeks.
As long as he is healthy, Solder should provide the Giants with solid play. Was he worth $34.8 million in guaranteed money? Whatever your opinion on that question, paying big money for big-name players at premium positions is simply the price of doing business atr the top end of the NFL free agent market.
Was signing Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract a good move or a bad one?
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