New York Giants: Dan Graziano gets it wrong with Nate Solder

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Dan Graziano of ESPN ranked New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder as one of the five worst NFL free agent signings last year.

Unfortunately, here’s another example of the “Worldwide Leader” being on long on rhetoric, but short on substance. For the record, according to Spotrac, Solder signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants. That ranks him second to Taylor Lewan (Tennessee Titans) in average annual value (AAV).

Where do we start with debunking Graziano’s conclusion? First, most players who go through unrestricted free agency wind up getting overpaid. Conversely, these guys are likely underpaid under the terms of their rookie contracts. Others give a hometown discount to remain in a comfortable setting.

Those are just the realities of NFL Economics 101. It’s a supply and demand business, which certainly relates to the nature of the position and the available free agent talent in a given year.

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Even using that basis, there clearly are overpaid players and poor signing decisions. Let’s look, for example, what former New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese did with Dwayne Harris.

Reese inked the former Dallas Cowboys return specialist to a four-year, $17.5 million deal in 2015 for no good reason. Essentially, Reese was bidding against himself because the Cowboys had moved on from Harris. The now displaced general manager was often prone to over-reaction, and at that time the New York Giants special teams stunk.

Another free agent scenario comes along with basically a market-rate contract that then places unrealistic expectations on the player. These contracts generally place the recipient as the highest (or one of the highest) paid players at a position, until the next positional contract comes along.

Players in premium positions often see the benefit of these contracts, so think positionally of edge rushers, left tackles, wide receivers, quarterbacks and cornerbacks.

Truthfully, Nate Solder falls into that category.

No, we shouldn’t expect one of the top paid tackles to finish ranked 21st by Pro Football Focus. That’s where Solder ended up with a 74.1 grade. Obviously, not great, but hardly a bust either. In fact, Lewan only ranked slightly ahead of Solder with 76.4 grade.

At least the Giants are in the same zip code with Solder.

Curiously, Graziano provided little to no basis for his assessment. In fact, lists like this often represent a fools errand because they are very much subjective, not objective. The point being that with the sad state of affairs that was the New York Giants offensive line, they had to overpay to get Solder signed.

Left tackles, like quarterbacks, don’t grow on trees, although we’ll leave the quarterback debate until another time too.

Here’s what Graziano said, per ESPN:

"“Sick of disappointing 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers, who never developed into the franchise left tackle the Giants expected him to be when they picked him No. 9 overall, the Giants won a bidding war for the 30-year-old Solder. It cost them a $62 million contract with $34.8 million in full guarantees. At the time, it made Solder the highest-paid tackle in NFL history. Only nine NFL teams allowed more sacks than the Giants in 2018.”"

It’s not inaccurate, but it totally lacks context providing his basis for the lousy ranking. In order to provide context, one needs to compare and contrast. Providing the full landscape makes an evaluation of this sort more than click bait.
It’s not inaccurate, but it totally lacks context providing his basis for the lousy ranking. In order to provide context, one needs to compare and contrast. Providing the full landscape makes an evaluation of this sort more than click bait. /

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

For example, what about guard Andrew Norwell? He was the apple of the many an eye in the Big Apple last season, before inking a deal with Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, as a team, may have been the most disappointing NFL squad in 2018.

Per Spotrac, we see that Norwell ranks second in offensive guard salary (average annual value) at $13.3 million. And if we search Pro Football Focus again, we see that Norwell ranked 27th among guards in the league with a 66.7 grade.

Norwell didn’t even warrant a dishonorable mention on Graziano’s list.

What about our old friend Weston Richburg? The former New York Giants center ranks third among all centers in salary, once again per Spotrac.

You may be surprised to know that Richburg ranked 41st among centers with a grade of 51.9 from Pro Football Focus. No mention of Richburg on Graziano’s list. There are 32 NFL teams, so you do the math.

Generally, we can go through free agency and find plenty of bad signings. In fact I would place the New York Giants edge defender Kareem Martin into the mix. According to PFF, he’s the 119th ranked edge defender in the league (60.5 PFF Grade).

That’s pretty bad, yet he inked a three-year, $15 million contract with Big Blue, and he actually ranks below former Giants bust Damontre Moore (61.3 PFF Grade).

Based upon notes from watching games, and a little cursory research I came up with three players who deserve inclusion more than Solder. Maybe next time, Graziano can step away from the microphone and put a little more thought into his list.

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Overall, the salary figure isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly fair. If there is a concern, it’s about wear and tear and his age. On the other hand, Andrew Whitworth (Los Angeles Rams) still performs at 37-years old. San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley is still going strong at 34-years old, and Solder didn’t miss any time this season.