Solder and the fifth-year option

One of the popular topics at the NFL owners meetings was teams and their decisions to exercise -- or not -- the fifth-year option on players selected in the first round of the 2011 draft.

All of those players have the option built into their contract, though teams must decide by May 3 whether to exercise it.

The Panthers are expected to use the option on quarterback Cam Newton, the first pick in that draft, while the Lions will not use it on defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the 11th pick that year.

The Patriots haven't publicly announced anything on left tackle Nate Solder, the 17th pick.

From a financial standpoint, this is what the option entails, with an assist from friend of the blog and cap expert Brian McIntyre: It will be equal to the average salaries (the cap number minus workout/incentive clauses) of the third-25th highest paid players for those at the position at the end of the restricted free-agent signing period (May 2).

Though Solder has played at left tackle for each of the past two seasons, the calculation includes all offensive linemen. So, and this is a ballpark figure, exercising the fifth-year option on Solder would equate to an $8.6 million salary in 2015.

Solder has shown himself to be one of -- if not the -- premiere young offensive linemen in the game. He's a foundational-type piece who the Patriots may have an interest in extending at some point in the future, though the option buys them time. Though $8.6 million is a high number, it's a fair value given Solder's play and the importance of the left tackle position.

We'll continue to monitor whether the Patriots decide to exercise the option, with our contention that it makes sense to consider.