There are only so many times you can turn up your palms, shrug and say, “What are you gonna do?”
Yes, each of the four big-name Patriots who’ve gone on to bigger green and greener pastures got p-p-p-p-paid. Paid at rates the Patriots can point to and say, “That’s too much . . . we couldn’t do that . . . ”
MORE ON SOLDER'S DEPARTURE
But saying, for instance, that the Giants made Nate Solder an offer too rich for the Patriots blood and New England had no other choice but to say goodbye ignores this: the Giants couldn’t even negotiate with Solder until Monday!!!!
If the Patriots truly wanted Nate Solder to stay, they would have been on their negotiating horse during the season. Not a week before free agency opened.
Nick Caserio and Bill Belichick could read the free-agent landscape at left tackle. They knew where Solder would stack up relative to the slim pickings that was out there. They knew that if he hit the market he’d get offered stupid money. And if they didn’t, well . . . why didn’t they?
Of course they did. Bottom line is, no matter how revered Solder was by men like offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, no matter how well he played during the second half of the season, no matter how durable he’s been and promises to still be (he’s just 29), the Patriots weren’t proactive before free agency and they weren’t aggressive enough once other teams started bidding.
MORE ON FREE AGENCY
Within the last few days, the Patriots made an offer to Solder and at what they feel was a very solid price.
They didn’t quite cradle Solder’s face in their hands and say right softly, “We don’t mind if you leave,” but they didn’t make it seem like they’d be lost without him.
So don’t get hung up on the four years and $62 million that Solder will make. Look instead at the effort made by New England before the Giants got to that point.
Two years and $12 million for Danny Amendola at 33? I get it. You can’t do what Miami did. Just plan a nice tribute video for when he comes to town.
Five years and $61 million for Malcolm Butler? We all knew he wasn’t coming back. The numbers, though, argue that it’s not just us morons in front of keyboards that believe he was pretty good. Unless everybody in Tennessee with all their New England ties are morons, too.
Four years and $23 million for Dion Lewis? Who’d begrudge the guy that kind of silly dough given that he was out of football before the Patriots resuscitated his career? Especially when his running style and body type combine to make him an injury threat. Plus the Patriots have options. As they did at corner and wideout.
They don’t have that at left tackle. At all.
Since 2001, the Patriots have had two left tackles -- Matt Light and Solder. Light was taken in the second round and started as a rookie for a team that -- at that point -- was regarded as the worst in the league. When Light was nearing the end, the Patriots were proactive in finding his replacement, selecting Solder in the first round in 2011.
Last season, the Patriots traded their first-round pick for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. He has a year left on his contract. If their intention was to recoup that first-round pick by trading Malcolm Butler there, well, that didn’t work out.
They traded their second-round pick to Carolina for Kony Ealy and the Panthers' third-round pick (62 overall). They dealt that. When they made their first pick of the draft, they took a defensive end. When they made their second pick it was an offensive tackle from Troy State named Antonio Garcia. He was ill and couldn’t play at all in 2017.
In 2016, the Patriots didn’t have a first-round pick (Deflategate) and they used their second-round pick on Cyrus Jones. He hasn’t inspired enthusiasm.
The point being, if you’re not going to do anything to truly shore up left tackle before your left tackle leaves and then you wait until a week before free agency to make him an offer to stay, you really didn’t plan well.
Which is something I harped on last offseason as well.
Every season, free agency begins and the Patriots toss a few pebbles in the water, signing the Ramon Humbers of the world. Then they come back with a vengeance, making drastic moves that serve as a giant vat of STFU for everyone that dared question them.
So over the years, I’ve learned to slow-play the criticism when players sign someplace else at the start of free agency.
But the left tackle need was long-standing and now it’s worse than it was. Unless the Patriots have a lockdown plan to addess it, we’ll see how long Tom Brady will be standing once the season begins.