Nate Solder is putting family over football after leaning on his faith.
As his veteran teammates reported to training camp Tuesday, Solder informed the team he will opt out of the 2020 season, as announced on his Instagram. The two-pronged opt-out clause for COVID-19 safety was agreed upon last week by the NFL and its Players Association, with Solder casting a vote as the Giants’ union representative.
Solder, 32, is a testicular cancer survivor and the father of a 5-year-old son, Hudson, who was diagnosed with a rare Wilms tumor at three months old. Hudson underwent surgery to remove a tumor last fall and had his third round of chemotherapy last fall.
Like Solder, Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon is a cancer survivor who opted out, while Steelers running back James Conner is a survivor who opted in. There is no unanimous answer for how to handle the circumstances, though higher body mass index (expected in 300-pound linemen) is identified as a risk factor.
Solder can earn $350,000 and a credited NFL season towards medical insurance and benefits because he is high risk. His contract essentially pauses for one year and the team-high $19.5 million salary cap hit comes off the books in 2020 and transfers to 2021, with the final year before free agency pushed until 2022.
There is a $150,000 stipend cash advance to be paid back for players who opt out but are not deemed high risk. The Patriots have a league-high six players who opted out.
Though he is coming off an admittedly disappointing season, Solder was expected to start at either left or right tackle, opposite rookie first-round pick Andrew Thomas. With Solder out, the Giants will turn to veteran journeyman Cam Fleming, rookie third-round pick Matt Peart or free-agency leftovers.
Fleming has 26 career starts over six seasons with the Patriots and Cowboys and is the only player on the roster familiar with the triumvirate of head coach Joe Judge, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and offensive line coach Marc Colombo.
The freed salary cap space allows the Giants to chase a late splash at an area of weakness like pass-rusher (Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen remain available) or cornerback. DeAndre Baker is saddled on the no-practice Commissioner’s Exempt List (pending appeal) as Logan Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick remain available.
The deeply religious Solder and his wife are unwavering in their charitable endeavors, especially when it comes to enhancing the lives of children. He was the Giants’ 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Players have seven days to opt out after the still-pending ratification of the amended Collective Bargaining Agreement, so the earliest deadline is Aug. 4.