Nate Solder

NFC Notes: Manning, Solder, Bears, Seahawks

Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long has missed 14 total games over the past two seasons, and the three-time Pro Bowler underwent neck, shoulder and elbow surgeries this past offseason. Naturally, the 29-year-old was limited during his team’s OTAs last month. However, Long still found a way to help his fellow linemen.

“He really wants to be good,”said the team’s new offensive line coach, Harry Hiestand (via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune). “He’s fun to be around. He comes in the meeting room every day with a smile on his face, looking forward to working. He’s very interested in helping the other guys. After I’ll say something, the meeting will break and they’ll be walking out to get a break and he’ll be talking out there with the young guys. That part’s been really good about him.”

The offensive guard is confident he’ll be good to go during training camp, and he’ll be hoping to improve a Bears line that allowed 39 sacks last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Following Kam Chancellor‘s unofficial retirement, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks will surely eye the free agent safety market, a grouping that includes Eric ReidKenny Vaccaro or Tre Boston. However, as the writer notes, the Seattle front office had anticipated Chancellor’s decision, and several of their offseason moves operated under the assumption that the veteran wouldn’t be with the team in 2018. The team currently has three starting-caliber safeties in Earl Thomas, Bradley McDougald and Maurice Alexander. Of course, as Condotta notes, if Thomas is traded or decides to hold out through the start of the regular season, the team will definitely need to add some depth at the position.
  • Instead of taking one of the highly-touted quarterback prospects, the Giants ended up opting for running back Saquon Barkley with the second-overall pick in this past year’s draft. Eli Manning recognized his team’s decision to not take his eventual replacement, and he’s aiming to prove their decision right. “It was kind of a vote of confidence in that they trusted in me that I can play at a high level, can win games, take us deep in playoffs and win championships and win championships still,” Manning said during an appearance on SiriusXM’s “The Opening Drive.”And you know what? I want to prove them right and I want to make them look smart and make them to have made the right decision in doing that. I want to go out there and do great things, do my job and lead this team and make guys around me better and do what I’m supposed to do to put us in position to win those games.”
  • Manning also touched on his team’s addition of left tackle Nate Solder, who the Giants added on a four-year, $62MM deal this past offseason. “He knows how the offensive line is supposed to work together as a group,” Manning said. “He has them in there early, has them eating lunch together, has that (bond), (which) I always thought was most important with offensive line. It’s not having the five best players at each position. It’s having five guys that just work together. They communicate, they’ve got a toughness about them, they’ve got a pride in their job and being able to get that third-and-two, being able to run the ball, being able to pass protect and give us enough time and pick up the stunts and the blitzes. So I think he’s kind of bringing that attitude to this group.”

Flowers Upset About Giants’ Solder Signing?

Ereck Flowers remains in south Florida training independently from the Giants, and teammate Landon Collins didn’t mince words when asked why the fourth-year tackle wasn’t with the team.

He’s just unhappy that they picked up [Nate Solder],” Collins said during an appearance on WFAN (via SNY.tv). “That’s it.”

The Giants signed Solder to a landmark deal and gave him Flowers’ position, subsequently shuttling the disappointing former top-10 pick to right tackle. While right tackle was where the Giants drafted Flowers to play initially, he’s started three straight seasons on the left side. Only, the last one ended acrimoniously. And the Miami product has been on the trade block.

With Big Blue unable to swing a trade for Flowers during the draft, he remains on the roster. The Giants do not have immediate plans to waive Flowers.

Dave Gettleman has attempted to shake up the team’s embattled offensive line, signing Solder and Patrick Omameh and following those additions up with a second-round selection of Will Hernandez. Flowers, nonetheless, now plays a position at which the Giants are otherwise understaffed. Second-year UDFA Chad Wheeler (five starts last season) represents Flowers’ primary competition on the right side.

Pat Shurmur believed Flowers and he were on the same page regarding the position change, SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano notes, but he’s the only Giant that’s been away from the team during the offseason period thus far. And he didn’t let the team know he’d be working out in Miami instead.

Definitely, I would say he needs to be here, as a teammate and as a captain because we need him here, need to get the line together so they can be on the same page,” Collins said. “… Ereck is my boy. At the same time, he has a lot to learn, and at the same time he has to work harder.

He came in last year, he thought he did what he needed to do — he lost weight, he was in proper shape, thought he played good in the first couple of games and just kind of went downhill when the season went downhill.”

The Giants passed on Flowers’ fifth-year option, and although the edge blocker cannot be fined for missing Giants offseason work until June’s minicamp, time could be running out for this relationship.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants To Sign OT Nate Solder

The Giants are expected to sign former Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s a four-year, $62MM deal which contains $32MM guarnateed, tweets Rapoport.

The Patriots have lost some key free agents already this week. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is signing with the rival Dolphins, running back Dion Lewis has fled to the Titans, and now Solder has inked a deal with the Giants. The Patriots expected that Solder’s market would get too expensive for their liking and a Lewis re-signing was far from certain, but few expected the Pats to lose all three notables to the open market.

Solder, for his part, drew plenty of interest around the league before signing with Big Blue. The Texans, who fielded one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines in 2017, were reportedly a finalist for Solder, while the Browns were also targeting the former Patriot. This year’s crop of free agent offensive tackles was extremely weak, so Solder unsurprisingly was in high demand.

The Giants, of course, currently have a former-first round pick — Ereck Flowers — at left tackle, but he’ll now presumably be moved to guard, traded, or cut. With Weston Richburg already out the door, and fellow free agent Justin Pugh possibly not far behind, it’s possible New York will need Flowers to play on the interior of its offensive line in 2018.

Solder isn’t exactly a world-beater, as he graded as the NFL’s No. 32 tackle in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. But he’s been extremely durable over the course of his seven-year career, and that availability is certainly worth something. Aside from a lost 2015 campaign, Solder has appeared in at least 15 games in every season of his NFL tenure.

Solder is now the highest-paid tackle in the league by a wide margin, as his $15.625MM annual average is more than $2MM above Trent Williams‘ annual salary. That’s a testament to Solder’s leverage as the only high-level free agent tackle available this spring. The Giants will get their franchise left tackle, but they’ll pay a hefty price.

The Patriots, meanwhile, don’t currently have a clear left tackle on their roster. Reserves Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle are both free agents, while 2017 draftee Antonio Garcia likely isn’t ready for a full-time role.

[RELATED: Giants Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nate Solder Down To Giants Or Texans?

Patriots left tackle Nate Solder probably won’t be a Patriot for long. It sounds like the free agent will be signing with either the Giants or Texans, based on what Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) has been hearing. There isn’t a “lot of optimism” about him staying put with Bill Belichick & Co., according to Rapoport. 

Solder, one PFR’s top ten free agents, also had a serious suitor in the Browns just hours ago. However, after agreeing to terms with Donald Stephenson as well as Chris Hubbard, the Browns are no longer in aggressive pursuit of this year’s No. 1 free agent tackle.

The Giants desperately need to bolster their offensive line, making Solder one of their top targets this March. Ditto for the Texans. Houston agreed to sign Seantrel Henderson on Tuesday, but the former Bill can slide down to right tackle if necessary.

Solder is not expected to take any free agent visits, meaning that he could sign at any time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Nate Solder’s Market

Left tackle Nate Solder is one of just three of PFR’s top 10 free agents that has yet to find a new contract, and his market appears fluid. Two teams that are reportedly in pursuit of Solder — the Browns and the Texans — have signed other offensive tackles today, but both clubs still appear to be in play for Solder.

Cleveland inked former Steelers swing tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year deal, but the Browns are still interested in Solder, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Franchise icon Joe Thomas hasn’t given Cleveland an indication as to whether he’ll retire, so it’s unclear exactly how many tackles the team needs. But Hubbard’s ability to play several positions means the Browns could land Solder to play left tackle and deploy Hubbard elsewhere, likely at right tackle.

Houston, meanwhile, signed Seantrel Henderson and are expected to give him a chance to win a starting job. But the Texans are still in on Solder, as well, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Like Hubbard, Henderson can play right tackle, and given Houston’s porous offensive line, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Solder is not expected to take any free agent visits, according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link), meaning he could conceivably sign at any time. The Giants are also reportedly targeting Solder, who has spent his entire career with the Patriots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Interested In OT Nate Solder

The Giants are among the teams with interest in tackle Nate Solder, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter). The Patriots free agent stands as the best available tackle in a weak market and figures to have a number of suitors. 

The Giants are in serious need of offensive line help and have already missed out on top target Andrew Norwell. Their interest in retaining their own free agent lineman Justin Pugh is unclear, but in any case, Solder would represent a clear upgrade over him. Depending on how things shake out, a Solder signing wouldn’t necesarily preclude the Giants from re-signing Pugh, who can also offer help on the interior.

Solder, 30 in April, has been among the league’s better tackles since entering the league in 2011. Last year, Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 32 tackle last season and he was in the top 20 in 2016. You could say 2017 was a down year for the veteran, but he was playing through injuries and figures to be better in 2018, if healthy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Interested In Several Big-Name FAs

The Browns took on some more salary last week by adding Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor, but the team is still loaded with cap space. And the John Dorsey-led operation plans to be active this week.

Nate Solder is on the Browns’ radar as a possible Joe Thomas replacement, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. While Thomas hasn’t announced his retirement, a decision on whether he will return in 2018 is expected soon.

Additionally, the trade for Damarious Randall won’t preclude Cleveland from seeking top-end cornerback talent. The Browns will pursue Bashaud Breeland, Cabot reports, and a Trumaine Johnson/Gregg Williams reunion could well be something the team considers.

The Browns are targeting big-name corners not just because they have a need for younger talent there but because they are going to play Randall as a free safety, per Cabot. Randall has not played safety yet in the NFL, but the Browns evidently view that as a worthwhile adjustment for their new defensive back.

Terrelle Pryor remains on the Browns’ radar, per Cabot. They’ve been linked to him this offseason and tried to reacquire him from the Redskins at the trade deadline last year. Hue Jackson remains a Pryor backer. Pryor’s market may not be what it was a year ago, however, after a rough season in Washington. Cabot adds that agent Drew Rosenhaus didn’t think it was wise for Pryor to be tied down at $8.5-$9.5MM per year. It would be incredibly surprising if Pryor signs for around that amount this year.

Cabot adds the Browns will likely go after Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins as well. Robinson is a top Browns target, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Pursuing LT Nate Solder

The Texans are making a strong run at left tackle Nate Solder, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The Texans started five different left tackles in 2017, so they are anxious to plug the hole with a capable player like Solder. 

If the Texans are intent on landing Solder, they’ll have to pony up some serious bucks. The veteran ranks fifth on our list of this year’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents.

Solder didn’t have his best season in 2017, but much of that can be attributed to injuries. The incumbent Patriots would like to re-sign him, but the belief is that he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year, which could be too rich for New England’s blood.

The Texans created an opening at left tackle after trading four-time Pro Bowler Duane Brown to the Seahawks last season. That need is compounded by the fact that Chris Clark, who played in 10 games at left tackle last year, starting eight, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is also due to become a free agent.

Solder, 29, has consistently rated as an above-average tackle since the Patriots selected him 17th overall in 2011. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 32 tackle last season and he was in the top 20 the year prior. Solder has appeared in at least 15 games in six of his first seven seasons in the league and would certainly provide protection to the blindside of Deshaun Watson, who’ll be coming off his ACL injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

Read more

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

Read more