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Texans playing high stakes poker for Nate Solder
“Son, I’ve made a life out of reading people’s faces, and knowing what the cards were by the way they held their eyes…”
- Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
We are about to see how well new Texans GM Brian Gaine plays his cards.
Left tackle is a premium position in the NFL, and this offseason there are several teams desperate to get one, the Texans included. The problem is there is only one on the free agent market that is any good, and his name is Nate Solder.
The Patriots LT isn’t coming off his best season, but he is a solid player who can be better than he was this past season where injuries early on slowed him, and has started four Super Bowls. He would be a big upgrade for a Houston team that started five different LTs a year ago, and the only good one they started, they traded to Seattle.
Dealing Duane Brown has left the Texans in a perilous predicament: they must bid against every other team that is just as desperate as they are, namely the Giants, Browns, and Patriots.
The Patriots are infamous for not paying market value, but all the other OTs they had last season were RTs, and they have some guy named Tom Brady who doesn’t like being hit. The Giants offensive line was a sieve, and they are desperate to get help to protect Eli Manning in his advancing age (they also just whiffed on OG Andrew Norwell, which has the front office scrambling). The Browns have Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, but Thomas hasn’t decided if he will play this year or retire, and won’t tell the team until Wednesday at the earliest. If he chooses to retire, they suddenly have a huge need at LT.
Of course, the Texans have their own young QB in Deshaun Watson they need to protect, and they would like to get their line up to par to get the run game going as well.
Four teams desperate for a LT. Only one LT that is any good on the market. Who will blink at the ante?
The Patriots have $22M in cap space avail, the Giants only $20M. The Texans have $61M and the Browns $77M. Solder’s price tag in this market could exceed $13M per season.
The best thing that can happen to the Texans is that Joe Thomas tells Cleveland he’s coming back, as that will leave them the most money to attack their needs.
In this instance, the Texans cannot blink. The ante may get large enough to set the market at LT. Another season of trash line play only further separates them from the Jaguars and the top of the division, neuters their run game, and puts their prize young star QB at risk.
The Texans can’t afford to whiff on Solder. However many chips it takes, they need to push them to the middle of the table.
We are about to find out if Brian Gaine has the fortitude to call on a biggest hand the Texans will likely play this offseason.
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” heard Monday-Friday 1-3p on SportsMap 94.1 FM, and “Sports & Shenanigans” Sun 12-5p CT on SB Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1