49ers roster 2021: Laken Tomlinson entering final year with Niners?

Laken Tomlinson #75 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Laken Tomlinson #75 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have received steady contributions from left guard Laken Tomlinson, but he could be entering his final year in San Francisco anyway.

Veteran left guard Laken Tomlinson was one of only a handful of San Francisco 49ers offensive players who stayed fully healthy over the course of an otherwise injury-plagued 2020 season.

Consistency has been the theme for the 29-year-old Tomlinson, as he’s missed just one start ever since being acquired via trade from the Detroit Lions right before the beginning of the 2017 season.

For a Niners team that has changed out every other position along the offensive line since Tomlinson joined the fray, that’s impressive. And while he’s been neither flashy nor dominant, Tomlinson has been a constant.

That matters.

Laken Tomlinson Games Played Table
4 yr4 yrSFO63632
2 yr2 yrDET3224

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/15/2021.

But Tomlinson also faces an uncertain future heading into 2021, thanks largely to both his contractual status and being a free agent in 2022, as well as San Francisco using a second-round NFL Draft pick on former Notre Dame offensive guard Aaron Banks.

Banks might not challenge Tomlinson directly. Yet with the 49ers looking to get younger along the O-line while saving money where they can, Tomlinson’s long-term prospects with the Niners look bleak.

Let’s see what’s on tap for Tomlinson heading into 2021 and, more importantly, beyond.

Why Laken Tomlinson improves with 49ers in 2021

Again, consistency has been a good measure for Tomlinson over his four years in San Francisco.

Pro Football Focus awarded Tomlinson with a solid 78.8 overall grade in 2020 despite the 49ers dealing with a slew of O-line injuries and rotating players, particularly to Tomlinson’s immediate right, at center.

That 78.8 mark actually was the highest grade Tomlinson has ever received. While his normal mark is usually in the 60s, it’s possible a settled situation at center with Alex Mack, plus now having a full year playing next to left tackle Trent Williams, settles Tomlinson into the best situation he’s been in since joining the Niners.

Why Laken Tomlinson regresses with 49ers in 2021

While Tomlinson settling in between Mack and Williams is a clear bonus, it doesn’t seem as if Tomlinson would be setting a new benchmark for the kind of production he’ll have moving forward.

What’s probably going to be a bigger likelihood is him reverting back into those lower 60 grades from PFF, especially as he starts to get up there towards being 30 years old.

Again, Tomlinson hasn’t truly been flashy or overly impressive during his NFL career, which isn’t a bad thing.

But it’s a pretty good indicator his 2020 efforts were a bit more of an overperformance rather than a sign of things to come.

Projected role, long-term future with 49ers

Right now, Banks is competing with the versatile Daniel Brunskill for the rights to start at right guard in 2021, and Tomlinson is essentially guaranteed as being safe at left guard.


Tomlinson has zero in guaranteed money in 2021, a contract year, according to Over the Cap. And things can get weird for players entering a season without any guarantees on their current deals. Theoretically, if both Brunskill and Banks thrive during training camp and the preseason, it can’t be ruled out that San Francisco could rule Tomlinson as a bit of an excess commodity, electing to get both younger and cheaper by starting Banks and Brunskill.

Read More: 3 surprising cuts 49ers could make in 2021

Banks was almost solely a left guard in college, too. It’s his natural position.

Still, that’s more of a remote possibility than a likelihood. Tomlinson’s consistency the last four years has value in itself, and a player like Brunskill might be more serviceable as an uber backup, of sorts.

Yet Banks’ presence casts some doubt upon whether or not the 49ers would want to retain Tomlinson into 2022 and beyond.

That’s where the starting left guard’s future gets cloudy.

Next. Ranking 49ers' top 10 trades in franchise history. dark