49ers can’t afford to let Laken Tomlinson hit NFL free agency

San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers are likely to have plenty of holes on their roster in 2022, but preventing left guard Laken Tomlinson from leaving would help matters a lot.

If you had to put priorities on the San Francisco 49ers‘ notable list of offseason needs in 2022, the offensive line would probably rank fairly low. After all, the Niners have bookend tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey under contract through next season, while center Alex Mack isn’t going anywhere just yet either.

Amid all the other roster needs, though, the situation at guard is precarious, especially with the underperformance at right guard with Daniel Brunskill.

It’ll get even worse if left guard Laken Tomlinson, a pending free agent, is allowed to walk on the open market.

Tomlinson is surely overshadowed by Williams, the latter being a perennial Pro Bowler. Yet Tomlinson, whom San Francisco acquired at the very beginning of the 2017 regular season, has been a staple of consistency, never having missed a start since after being immersed into the offense.

While interior linemen rarely get the big-time payday tackles receive in NFL free agency, Tomlinson could be due a sizable raise once his current contract expires.

What can 49ers expect to pay Laken Tomlinson in 2022?

Over the Cap currently values Tomlinson’s efforts in 2021 at $11.159 million, which on an average annual value, would make him the seventh highest-paid guard in the NFL right now.

Tomlinson’s current annual average value is $5.5 million.

It’s possible the 49ers get something of a hometown discount from the 29-year-old lineman and former first-round NFL Draft pick of the Detroit Lions, and he’s certainly emerged as a quality option in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking offense.

Read More: Laken Tomlinson isn’t getting the attention he deserves

But projecting what his value might be on the open market gets a bit trickier than just what OTC suggests with valuation.

Pro Football Focus, which listed Tomlinson as the No. 28 overall player in 2022 NFL free agency, projects a three-year, $27 million contract with $16.5 million guaranteed.

A high number in guarantees, perhaps, but much lower when contrasted against over $11 million in average annual value.

49ers’ need of Laken Tomlinson goes beyond just money

Brunskill has far exceeded expectations, being a former undrafted free agent who cut his teeth in the Alliance of American Football before joining the Niners. Yet he’ll always balance on the fringes of being a low-end starter and quality reserve, the latter being the role he held up through 2019.

San Francisco has to figure out that particular area of the O-line, yes. But compounding the problem has been the rookie flameout of second-round draft pick Aaron Banks, who has scantly been active this season and has yet to take an offensive snap.

Banks could still develop into a decent starter after a lost 2021 campaign, but that might be a distant hope now. Even so, that only partially solves the O-line needs, and those would be magnified if Tomlinson is allowed to test the open market.

Tomlinson’s reliability and under-the-radar high performance, paired with the uncertainty the 49ers have at guard anyway, makes him a prime re-sign candidate.

And they’d be foolish to let him walk without ideal options available elsewhere.

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