The New York Giants‘ offensive line sure saw their fair share of struggles in 2020. By season’s end, Right guard Kevin Zeitler was the only carryover from the team’s starting unit the year prior, leaving very little consistency in front of quarterback Daniel Jones. While rookies Andrew Thomas and Shane Lemieux showed some growth towards the latter end of the season and Nick Gates settled in at center, they still finished the season as Pro Football Focus‘ second-to-last ranked offensive line in all of football.
Nate Solder’s play the past few seasons may have left much to be desired in correlation to his enormous contract. Still, he’s a serviceable player with 127 starts under his belt whose veteran presence would have likely been invaluable for a unit so greatly inexperienced. Instead, Solder was nowhere to be found on the football field this season, and who could blame him?
Solder, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014 and currently has a five-year-old son undergoing cancer treatment himself, chose to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, after a season away from the gridiron, Solder sounds like a guy who remains uncertain of buckling the chinstrap ever again.
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Solder: ‘I Just Value People More than I Value My Career in the NFL’
In a recent interview with ESPN, Solder admitted that he felt as if he was letting his team down by opting-out of the season. Solder, who has started all but three of his 130 career games throughout his nine-year playing career, was penciled in as a starter at one of the two tackle positions.
“In a lot of ways, I felt like I was letting my teammates down. I felt like I was letting the new coaching staff down,” Solder said.
While there is a chance New York cuts Solder this offseason in order to free up cap space, it’s beginning to sound as if the Giants may not have to make that decision.
“The fact is, as a 32-year-old NFL player, it just hurts my chances of having my career trajectory take off at this point,” he said. “I just have to trust in God and see where he leads me.”
Solder continued “Trust me, it was an internal tension. But once it became clear, the priority of my family’s lives, of our children and my in-laws and parents and all the connections in our community, man, I just value people more than I value my career in the NFL.”
Solder’s 2021 Outlook: Financial Fallout & Likelihood of Return
Solder will turn 33 years old in May after taking an entire year off of football. His play has been on a decline since arriving in New York back in 2018. Financially, he has two years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $16.5 million in 2021. That cap hit would then jump to $18 million in 2022.
If the Giants cut Solder before the start of free agency, they’d create $6 million in cap savings while taking on $10.5 million in dead money on the 2021 salary cap, but would be completely off the books from that point on. If the team made Solder a post-June 1 cut, they’d create $10 million in cap savings while taking on $6.5 million in dead money for 2021, as well as $4 million in dead money for 2022.
The Athletic’s Dan Duggan brilliantly outlined the effects Solder’s potential cutting has on New York’s spending money when it comes to signing free agents this spring.
Many fans see the additional $4 million in cap savings this year and view a June 1 cut as a no-brainer. But there’s important aspect that is often overlooked: Players designated as June 1 cuts still count on the cap until, logically, June 1. So the $10 million in cap savings from making Solder a June 1 cut wouldn’t be available to the Giants until well after the top free agents have signed.
However, deep down Duggan doesn’t believe the Giants will ultimately have to make the call on Solder’s future in New York.
Solder turns 33 in May. He has played in 130 games, won two Super Bowl rings and earned over $70 million. He has three young children, including 5-year-old Hudson, who is battling cancer, and has ambitions that extend far beyond football.
With all of that in mind, my gut feeling is that Solder will retire.
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