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Patriots brace for Nate Solder to leave

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18: Nate Solder #77 of the New England Patriots crosses the goalline for a touchdown in the third quarter against D’Qwell Jackson #52 of the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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The Patriots won’t apply the franchise tag to left tackle Nate Solder, because contractually they can’t. Which means that Solder, a first-round pick in 2011 who turns 30 next month, will be an unrestricted free agent.

Via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots are bracing for Solder to possibly leave, due to a belief that he’ll get more than $12 million per year on the open market.

Per Howe, LaAdrian Waddle or Cameron Fleming could replace Solder, who reportedly prefers to stay in New England. The question is whether he’ll take considerably less than he could get elsewhere.

No offer has been made yet to Solder, according to Howe. But it’s expected that the Patriots will at least make an effort to persuade Solder to stick around for an eighth season, and beyond.

In only seven years, Solder has started in four Super Bowls, with a pair of championship rings that he’d be taking to a new city, if he ends up in one.

The Broncos could be interested, based on what Solder did to Denver’s director of player personnel Matt Russell at the Colorado Pro Day in 2011.