The New York Giants made it an emphasis this offseason to improve their offensive line this offseason. The Giants spent three draft picks on offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. One of those picks was an offensive guard but their other two were both offensive tackles (Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart). In addition to those they drafted, the Giants also signed offensive tackle Cameron Fleming in free agency.
Now, with three more offensive tackles on the roster, the Giants have plenty of depth and options heading into the new season. But what will the team do with its starting left tackle from 2019? Nate Solder is due to make $19.5M this season. He was recently named the “most overrated player” in the NFL by CBS Sports. With all of these options at offensive tackle, what should the Giants do with Nate Solder and his huge contract in 2020?
Start Him At Left Tackle?
Of course, the Giants could keep Nate Solder around as their starting left tackle. This would provide continuity for Daniel Jones and continues to pay Solder for what he was signed to play. However, in my opinion, this would be a mistake.
The Giants should start Andrew Thomas at left tackle as soon as possible. Why should they move him to the right side of the offensive line for his rookie season if they plan to start him at left tackle for the rest of his career? This could stunt his development, but more importantly, it could stunt Daniel Jones’s development.
Nate Solder was one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, Solder “allowed a league-high 56 pressures while ranking just 70th out of 89 qualifiers with a 52.9 run-blocking grade.” This could be compared to Andrew Thomas’s prolific collegiate career in which he surrendered a total of 37 total pressures on 1,075 pass-block snaps and “only nine total pressures during his third and final season with the Bulldogs.”
Andrew Thomas should play left tackle right away because he is arguably the best left tackle on the roster already, despite never playing a snap in the NFL. Protecting Daniel Jones is the most important task for the Giants’ offensive line. The Giants are not protecting Daniel Jones to the best of their abilities if Nate Solder is starting at left tackle in 2020.
Start Him At Right Tackle?
So if Nate Solder is a liability at left tackle, could they start him at right tackle instead? Would that be an improvement? Currently, the Giants’ group of left tackles if full of unknowns; Matt Peart and Nick Gates are young and unproven players. Cameron Fleming was signed during free agency, presumably to be the team’s right tackle this season. That was before the Giants drafted both Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart.
Now there seems to be a bit of a positional battle at right tackle. Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming are both strong candidates for the position as they both provide veteran experience. Nate Solder starting at right tackle would be better than him starting at left tackle because he would be in the quarterback’s field of vision. Having Solder on the blindside led to a number of Daniel Jones fumbles. Jones is a pretty mobile quarterback, so maybe he could get away from some of those sacks and pressures if he sees them before they get there.
Trade Or Cut?
The Giants should see how Nate Solder plays at right tackle in training camp and preseason. If his performance improves and he looks like the best right tackle on the roster, then the Giants should allow him to start the regular season at that position. However, if he is unable to win the starting right tackle job before the season begins, the Giant should consider moving on from the 9-year NFL veteran.
As previously stated, Solder has a cap hit of $19.5M this season. He also had a dead cap hit of $16M, however, that was his pre-June 1st dead cap hit. Post-June 1st, Solder’s dead cap hit is only $9.5M. So if the Giants cut or trade Nate Solder before the start of the 2020 NFL season, they will free up $10M in salary cap space. That money could then be reinvested to sign a new right tackle or a new cornerback, or the Giants could save the money.
Trading Nate Solder might prove to be a difficult task. Not a lot of teams are looking for a $19M left tackle who let up 56 pressures last season. The Giants will likely not have a market for Solder if they choose to trade him, but cutting him would be a cap-friendly decision. The move would also free up $14M in cap space in 2021.
The Giants’ offensive line should be much improved in 2020; especially if Nate Solder’s performance improves. But the most exciting thing about the Giants’ new offensive line is the depth that they possess. Even if Solder doesn’t improve this year, the Giants have options- and they have not had options in a long time.