What's Next for the Giants After Nate Solder's Opt-out?
Giants' offensive tackle Nate Solder's decision to opt-out of the 2020 season comes as little surprise given his and his family's history.
In his statement released on Twitter, Solder, a testicular cancer survivor, announced that after much prayer and reflection, he is opting out of the 2020 season.
Besides being in the High-Risk Player Category himself, Solder's young son Hudson qualifies as a "High-Risk Cohabitant" under the NFLPA's COVID-19 Amendments to the CBA. Hudson Solder has been battling cancer for most of his young life, a battle that includes chemotherapy.
The Solders also welcomed a new baby boy this off-season. Given that young infants take some time to build up their immune systems, the decision was a no-brainer for Solder, a team captain last year, and one of the Giants player reps.
So what's next for the Giants? Here are some questions--and answers--about where they go from here.
Can Solder change his mind?
No. Decisions made to opt-out are irrevocable.
Who starts at left tackle?
This is an easy one: Andrew Thomas. That's why the Giants drafted him fourth overall, to be their future left tackle.
What about at right tackle?
That's not as easy, but the candidates will include veteran Cam Fleming, Nick Gates (who will presumably be working at center, as well), and rookie Matt Peart.
Peart is believed to be the long-term answer at right tackle, but the third-round draft pick out of UConn is still a little bit on the raw side (check out Nick Falato's write up of Peart after the Giants drafted him in April for a refresher on what the young man's film showed).
Fleming would appear to have the inside track given his experience int he league and, in particular, in the Cowboys offense, whose offensive-minded head coach (Jason Garrett) and offensive line coach (Marc Colombo) are now with the Giants as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach respectively.
The Giants could roll with Fleming at right tackle, especially if Gates becomes knee-deep in the center competition. If an emergency should arrive where Thomas struggles or can't go at left tackle, Fleming could flip to the other side and, with there likely now going to be a priority on getting Peart up to speed in a hurry, he could step in.
What is the effect on the salary cap?
Solder was due to earn a $9.9 million base salary this year. He also received a $3 million roster bonus earlier this year.
Assuming he did indeed qualify for the High-Risk opt-out--and there is more than enough evidence based on his history with cancer to suggest he did--the $350,000 stipend he's receiving will not count against his base salary which means the Giants will be credited for Solder's $9.9 million base salary this year. His prorated signing bonus ($6.5 million) will remain on the books this year.
But don't go expecting the Giants to spend any savings like an out-of-control shopper during a post-Thanksgiving sale.
With the 2021 NFL salary cap likely to fall to as low as $175 million, the smart NFL teams will look to roll over whatever money is left to 2021 to help off-set some of the roster decisions they otherwise would have had to make to get under the cap.
According to Over the Cap, the Giants have already committed $170,145,019 toward contracts next year. That doesn't include the saving on Solder, nor the anticipated funds needed to sign edge Markus Golden and kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
Regardless, that's not a lot of breathing room should the 2021 cap fall to that $175 million floor. And with the Giants having Dalvin Tomlinson's and Leonard Willams' deals coming up plus the need to sign draft picks plus other free agency activity, that's not a lot of breathing room.
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