Patriots' success in free agency contingent on Nate Solder's return

From ESPN - March 12, 2018

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the official start to free agency closing in on Wednesday, the first domino to fall for the New England Patriots is one of their biggest: 6-foot-8, 325-pound starting left tackle Nate Solder.

Re-signing Solder has to be the teams first priority, and it wont come cheap. The top of the left tackle market is $13.5 million per season.

As ESPN NFL Nation reporter Kevin Seifert wrote in his top 100 free-agent rankings -- in which Solder earned the No. 7 spot -- Its rare for even a capable left tackle to reach free agency. Solder would be a popular target.

Indeed, Solder is widely viewed as the best available offensive tackle, and then theres a notable dropoff.

The Patriots seemed to project this scenario last offseason, and in hopes of creating a fallback plan to protect themselves, made two trades up in the draft to select offensive tackles Tony Garcia (third round) and Conor McDermott (sixth round). But Garcia missed all of last season on the non-football illness list, and McDermott was edged out for a roster spot by undrafted Cole Croston and then claimed on waivers by the Bills, where he spent all season.


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