If you are conflicted regarding how you should feel about Nate Solder returning to the New York Giants in 2021, I don’t blame you. Solder wasn’t good when we last saw him play in 2019, he is now 33 years old, has not played football in a year-and-a-half after opting out last season, and his $9.5 million cap hit is not easy to swallow.
Position: Offensive tackle
Contract: Year 1 of two-year, $13.5 million re-structured contract (2022 is a void year) | Guaranteed: $3 million | 2021 cap hit: $9.5 million
Career to date
Before his 2019 struggles and his 2020 opt out, Solder was a good NFL left tackle. He was good enough to break into the starting lineup for the New England Patriots as a rookie, stay there for seven seasons protecting Tom Brady and helping the Patriots win multiple Super Bowl titles.
Solder has never made a Pro Bowl or been anywhere close to the league’s best left tackle. In New England he was generally good, a reliable player who showed up every game day and did his job. The problem when he came to New York was that the four-year, $62 million contract he got — making him the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL at the time — created an expectation he was never going to match.
Solder’s 2018 season with the Giants (7 sacks and 33 pressures allowed, a 96.8 pass-blocking efficiency grade per Pro Football Focus) was right in line with his career numbers.
His 2019 season (11 sacks and a career-worst 57 pressures allowed, a career-low 94.8 pass-blocking efficiency score) was not. Was he playing hurt? Maybe. Was he impacted by the unpredictability of a rookie quarterback? Maybe. Was it an awful season for him? Definitely.
What should we expect from Solder this season? The last time he played in a football game was Dec. 29, 2019. Even Solder doesn’t know what will happen.
“The Lord knows, I have no idea,” Solder said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity. I still feel fresh. I’m as fast and strong as I feel like I have ever been. Who knows, how could I project and predict what’s going to happen. I’ll do my best to stay out there and be healthy.”
Unless second-year man Matt Peart proves incapable of handling the right tackle job, Solder figures to be the swing tackle behind Peart and Andrew Thomas. When media spoke to Solder in the spring, it was almost astonishing how unconcerned Solder seemed to be about his role.
“One of the great things about coming back is just the opportunity to work with a group of guys. Who cares who starts? I just want to be a part of an excellent group that’s getting better every day that plays at a really high level and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some great O-Lines, and whoever cares, nobody cares who is starting and who is not starting because we’re all part of the team and we’re all necessary and we’re all needed,” Solder said. “So, if I can encourage, protect, guide, lead and compete, whatever it takes, I’m here to do it.
“I’ve been on enough teams where there’s six, seven off the bench that there’s significant time, so I don’t know what that’s going to be. Who knows? They are going to game plan something up, and I’m hoping to get some time on the field but whatever the case is going to be, I’m going to work my tail off and be the best I can to support the guys around me.”
Solder should be an excellent mentor for Peart, Thomas and the Giants other young offensive linemen. How good will be be if and when he is called upon to play? We will all find out together.