Light protected Tom Brady's blind side from 2001-2011 and is the 2018 inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Furthermore, as a rookie, he started 15 games at left tackle for the Patriots (12 in the regular season, three in the playoffs).
This season, the Patriots might be turning to a rookie to replace Solder after selecting Georgia's Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the draft.
Light sees it as a superhuman void.
"As far as fans, and how they view this season with respect to the loss to a guy like Nate, Nate's not a guy you can just replace. No. 1, because he's a ridiculously large mammal," Light said of the 6-foot-8, 325-pound Solder, who signed a four-year, $62-million contract with the New York Giants as a free agent.
"From the first time I met him, I thought, 'Man, this just shouldn't be right that big guys like this are designed the way they are.' No fat. Runs like a deer. Got the reach and wingspan of a vulture. The guy is just unbelievably talented in so many ways, and he's smart, a cerebral player. You don't replace a guy like that overnight."
Solder, of course, replaced Light in the 2012 season and held down the left-tackle spot (outside of injury) for six seasons.
As for who replaces Solder in 2018, Wynn is one option. Four-year veteran Trent Brown, who was acquired in a trade from the 49ers, is another. The team also has six-year veterans LaAdrian Waddle and Matt Tobin, along with developmental prospect Andrew Jelks. Offensive-line coach Dante Scarnecchia said last week that the team prefers to keep Marcus Cannon at right tackle, so he would ideally only be tapped in an emergency.
"They have some guys that have had a little experience and have seen some stuff, but overall it looks as though you're going to be going with a guy that may have zero experience in the NFL. Who knows how it all shakes out?" Light said.
"But it's been done before. They survived me going through that first year of being lost in so many ways and trying to figure out things on the run. I would say this, for all the fans out there, it's been documented but I'm not sure it's been appreciated as it should be, but the work Dante does and the work he puts into the offseason -- and the work he puts into the young guys that are coming into the organization and how he motivates those guys and pushes them to be in the best position possible to play the game -- I've got a lot of confidence in his ability to prepare the guys he thinks are the best to take the field.
"Maybe that means they're going to be juggling a lot of guys in and out, and trying to play them at multiple positions, and get them in the fire a little bit and see how they react. But look, I think they're going to find somebody that can do it. They've done it in the past. There were times I went down and a guy like Nick Kaczur [stepped in]. You think back to the Tom Ashworths and the guys that backed up and played the tackle positions. We got a lot of great play out of those guys, and the all-time swing guy Russ Hochstein; and the different ways Dante had guys ready to go in and fill the void.
"But it's a big void. It's definitely something we're all going to be keeping an eye on, how they do it, and how teams try to take advantage of maybe a younger player, or a guy that hasn't had as many snaps with those guys. Definitely something to watch, but I feel as those guys will be ready to roll and be prepared."