Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pats should explore Solder's contract in near future


When you find a good left tackle, you keep him. And to do that, it's ideal to re-work his contract well before he gets a sniff of free agency.

The New England Patriots are now getting to that point with Nate Solder, who is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract -- a deal the Patriots would be best-served extending.

Under the tutelage of All-World offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Solder has gotten better each year.

The Colorado product began his NFL stint as the Patriots' third tackle and in a blocking tight end role. By 2012, he was tasked with trying to fill the shoes of longtime blindside protector Matt Light, and heading into 2014, he's considered one of the most solid all-around left tackles in the league and among the best of those in their mid-20s.

Pro Football Focus graded Solder as the NFL's eighth-best left tackle in 2013, giving him well above average marks in both pass and run blocking. He's also proved to be one of the more disciplined offensive linemen in the league in terms of penalties (or lack thereof).

Solder surrendered just two quarterback hits and 23 hurries, though when his opponents beat him, they often got to Brady. His 10 sacks given up were tied for third most of all left tackles.

The Patriots are typically known to play hardball when it comes to contracts running out, but Solder is just getting into his prime, and he'd probably come cheaper now in an extension as opposed to if he had a really good season last year and was much closer to free agency.

His current cap hit is under $3 million. That number will be much larger in the future, but left tackle is a position you have to pay for. The Patriots do have a fifth-year option with Solder, though it must be decided on by early May.

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