Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Replacing Nate Solder remains huge question mark for Patriots

Ryan Hannable
March 15, 2018 - 11:38 am

After the Patriots lost starting left tackle Nate Solder to the Giants on Wednesday, their offseason may be defined by who they find to replace him.

After all, protecting Tom Brady's back side is one of the most important positions on the field.

Solder was the best left tackle on the market and the options behind him are not great.

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots are interested in bringing back LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cameron Fleming, both of whom are free agents. They are also showing interest in former Ravens tackle Austin Howard, although much of his time has been spent on the right side.

There truly isn't much on the open market and the internal options aren't much better.

They have 2017 third-round pick Tony Garcia on the roster, but he lost 40 pounds last year because of blood clots in his lungs, so he really cannot be counted on to fill in right away. There's also Andrew Jelks, who spent last year on NFI, and Cole Croston, an undrafted free agent who the Patriots kept on the active roster all of last season so they wouldn't lose him. Croston doesn't have much experience at left tackle, though.

What about the draft? Again, not great.

The offensive tackle class isn't very good, as there aren't many NFL-ready players available. Two names that come to mind are Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame and Kolton Miller from UCLA. If the Patriots want one of these players, they will likely need to use their first-round pick on them, and there's no guarantee they are even around when New England selects No. 31 overall.

It would appear the likely scenario is bringing back Waddle and/or Fleming, which won't be very cheap either given the tackle market. Some have speculated about moving Marcus Cannon to left tackle, but that doesn't make much sense because then there would be two positions made worse -- left and right tackle. Cannon is better served staying on the right side. Waddle did a decent job filling in last season, but much of that was on the right side. Garcia is the likely left tackle of the future, but he needs a year or two of NFL experience before he could ever be considered for the starting job.

Losing out on Solder was a massive loss for New England and Brady could end up being the one who pays for it the most.