Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and the New England Patriots will have some tough decisions to make in March when it comes to the offensive tackle position. Starting left tackle Nate Solder, as well as backups Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle, are all set to be free agents after this season. So right tackle Marcus Cannon, 2017 third-round draft pick Tony Garcia, and developmental guard/tackle Cole Croston are the only tackles the Patriots have under contract next year. I believe that the Patriots drafted Garcia last year with the intention of having him replace Solder as the Patriots’ starting left tackle, but the fact that he has spent all year on the non-football illness list with an unknown ailment likely stunted his development — he will need more time before he can be expected to start full time. After all, he will need to put on some weight and develop his run blocking technique, considering that he was rarely asked to do so in college. As a result, I believe that the Patriots will likely need to re-sign at least one of their impending free agents.

I’m currently under the impression that some team will overpay Fleming to start, and while Waddle is good when healthy, he hasn’t been healthy enough to rely on to be a full-time starter. And with Tom Brady set to be 41 next year, I’d rather not rely on an oft-injured veteran and an unproven rookie to protect his blind side. Thus, I believe that it will likely be in the Patriots’ best interest to re-sign Solder. The issue with doing so, however, is that offensive tackles are expensive. Russell Okung got himself $13.25 million dollars a year from the Los Angeles Chargers last year, while Riley Reiff received $11.75 million from the Minnesota Vikings. That would be a lot of money to pay Solder; who, while an above-average starter, has had an up-and-down season and consistently struggles with speed to power rushes. And to those wondering why he would cost so much — he will be by far the best tackle available on the market: he would be competing with the likes of Garry Gilliam and Greg Robinson. (Who? Exactly.) And since left tackle is one of the most important positions in the game, along with the dearth of offensive line talent coming out of college, all it takes is for one tackle-needy team to make him the highest paid player at his position.

As a result, it may be cost prohibitive for the Patriots to re-sign him, considering that they will likely have around $25 million in cap space after making a few releases in early March. However, there is one very unfortunate circumstance that may cause Solder to take a discount to stay in New England: his son has cancer and is getting treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It is completely within the realm of possibility that the Patriots’ 2011 first-round pick hangs the cleats up to spend more time with his family. But if he doesn’t, he would likely rather prefer to stay in the Boston area than to pack up and move across the country. Also, the seventh-year offensive tackle will turn 30 in March, which could also drive his market value down somewhat.

That’s enough for the exposition — now I’ll dig into the numbers and give my contract projections for each of the Patriots’ three free agent tackles. I’ll start by detailing a few comparable contracts for each player before detailing my projection.

Nate Solder

Comparable contracts:

Name APY Percent Guaranteed
Russell Okung  $13,500,000.00 47.2%
Riley Reiff  $11,750,000.00 44.8%
Andrew Whitworth  $11,250,000.00 44.4%

 

Projection:

Age Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus NLTBE Incentives Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings if Cut
30 2018 $5,500,000.00* $2,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $8,000,000.00 $14,000,000.00 $14,000,000.00 $22,000,000.00 $(14,000,000.00)
31 2019 $8,500,000.00* $2,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $11,000,000.00 $9,000,000.00 $23,000,000.00 $14,500,000.00 $(3,500,000.00)
32 2020 $10,500,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $13,000,000.00 $11,000,000.00 $34,000,000.00 $4,000,000.00 $9,000,000.00
33 2021 $11,500,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $14,000,000.00 $12,000,000.00 $46,000,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $12,000,000.00

 

The deal comes out to be $46 million over 4 years ($11.5 APY) with 47.8% of the contract’s value being guaranteed. (The asterisk denotes a guaranteed base salary, meaning that Solder will receive the money whether or not he is on the team that year.) The incentive I listed is a $1 million Pro Bowl incentive in each year of the deal, bringing the total up to $50 million. This contract is more in line with the deal Riley Reiff received than Russell Okung’s. But that’s because I’m assuming Solder will be willing to take a hometown discount and that teams will not value Solder as highly as they did Okung last year. From the team’s perspective; it is essentially a two-year pact, the extra years are added on to spread the signing bonus around a bit. This will give the team some peace of mind while also allowing them to groom Garcia to eventually take over. If Solder does indeed return next season, expect it to be on a deal similar to this one.

Cameron Fleming

Comparable contracts

Name APY Percent Guaranteed
Joe Barksdale  $5,500,000.00 47.3%
Ben Ijalana  $5,125,000.00 29.3%

 

Projection:

Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings
2018 $2,000,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $250,000.00 $3,250,000.00 $5,250,000.00 $5,250,000.00 $3,000,000.00 $250,000.00
2019 $3,000,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $250,000.00 $4,250,000.00 $3,250,000.00 $8,500,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $2,250,000.00
2020 $4,000,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $250,000.00 $5,250,000.00 $4,250,000.00 $12,750,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $4,250,000.00

For the record, I do not expect the Patriots to re-sign Fleming. However, I expect that another team will sign him to a deal similar to this one to start for them next year.

LaAdrian Waddle

Comparable contracts:

Name APY Percent Guaranteed
Jordan Mills  $1,900,000.00 10.5%
LaAdrian Waddle (Current Deal)  $1,200,000.00 10.4%

 

Projection

Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings
2018 $1,250,000.00 $250,000.00 $250,000.00 $1,750,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $1,250,000.00
2019 $1,750,000.00 $250,000.00 $250,000.00 $2,250,000.00 $2,000,000.00 $4,000,000.00 $250,000.00 $2,000,000.00

 

Waddle has been pretty solid when he has played, but has struggled to stay on the field. As a result, I expect the Patriots to bring Waddle back on a deal similar to this one, which I based in part off of his current deal. I would also expect such a deal to include playing time incentives that would pay him more if he ended up starting. Something like $1 million a year for 35% play time and an additional $1 million for 55% play time would fit.

In closing, I expect the Patriots to end up re-signing Solder and Waddle, while letting Fleming walk. They’ll have Solder start for a few years while the coaching staff works with Garcia, while Waddle provides a good veteran backup option.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I detail contract projections for the Patriots’ other impending free agents.

(Authors Note: I referred to Spotrac.com for salary information.)

For quality up-to-date sports reporting, visit our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Author Details
My name is William LaFiandra, and I’m a college student attending the College of the Holy Cross. I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots but also follow any NFL related news. I’ve always enjoyed both writing and sports, so I figured I’d give sports journalism a try. I particularly like analyzing and reading about NFL contracts, rosters, strategies, free agency, and the draft.
×
My name is William LaFiandra, and I’m a college student attending the College of the Holy Cross. I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots but also follow any NFL related news. I’ve always enjoyed both writing and sports, so I figured I’d give sports journalism a try. I particularly like analyzing and reading about NFL contracts, rosters, strategies, free agency, and the draft.
Latest Posts

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.