Nate Solder is opting out of the 2020 NFL season.
The Giants' projected starter at left tackle said in a statement on Wednesday that after a period of time “praying, wrestling and listening to God” about his family’s circumstances in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, he has chosen to “pause” for this season.
Solder is a cancer survivor and his son, Hudson, is in the midst of a second battle with cancer. The Solders also welcomed a newborn son in the spring.
“With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order and, for us, our children's health and the health of our neighbors comes before football,” Solder said in his statement.
Under the agreement reached last week between the NFL and the Players Association, players can choose not to play in the upcoming season without penalty. The opt-out is irrevocable. Solder joins a growing list of NFL players who have decided to skip this season and avoid the health risks of playing amid a pandemic, but he is the first Giant to do so.
Solder, the Giants’ NFLPA team rep, tweeted last month: “If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple.”
Solder will receive a stipend of $150,000 for the year, which is an advance on his salary next season.
Because of his age (32) and with the Giants having drafted his replacement at left tackle with fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas this spring, Solder may actually be opting out of the rest of his tenure with the Giants. He signed a four-year, $62 million deal with the team in 2018 and has two years remaining on it (which will now be pushed to 2021 and 2022) with cap hits of $19.5 and $20 million. If Thomas progresses enough to handle the left tackle position it would seem unlikely for the Giants to bring Solder back at that salary for a backup role.
The Giants figured to start the season with Solder at left tackle and Thomas at right. Now they might thrust Thomas into the more demanding left tackle spot to start his career. They also have veteran tackle Cam Fleming, whom they signed as a free agent, and Nick Gates, who had been working this offseason at guard but played tackle for the Giants in 2019.
Solder did not report to the start of training camp on Tuesday with the rest of the veterans, but the Giants were expecting him to show up on Wednesday and undergo the first round of COVID-19 testing that players are required to take. Instead they received word from him that he would not be playing this season.
Head coach Joe Judge said he spoke with Solder about the decision Wednesday morning.
“We were together in New England, obviously, and he has always been a thoughtful, conscientious person,” Judge said. “Ultimately, he made this decision because it is the right thing for him and his family.”
That didn’t make it an easy one, though.
"We fully recognize that being able to make a decision like this is a privilege,” Solder said in his statement. “I will deeply miss my teammates, coaches and everyone in the Giants organization. I want to thank them and all my friends and fans who continue to support me and my family through the highs and the lows. As scary and bleak as it sometimes can be, we know that the God of the universe has all things under His control, and His plans are and will always be for our good.”