49ers losing Laken Tomlinson to Jets in free agency is a sad day for fans

San Francisco 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson (75) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson (75) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers lost their first big name in 2022 NFL free agency, as Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson is heading across the country to join the Jets.

On one hand, it makes a lot of sense the San Francisco 49ers were ultimately unable to retain their stalwart left guard Laken Tomlinson after his best season as a pro last year.

Tomlinson, who has started every game for the Niners since being acquired via trade from the Detroit Lions early in the 2017 season, subsequently ending his San Francisco tenure with his first Pro Bowl honor, won’t be coming back in 2022.

No, he’s joining a former coach, Robert Saleh, on a lucrative free-agent deal with the New York Jets, as broken down by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

Tomlinson signing a deal with $27 million guaranteed over three years would have been out of the 49ers’ price range, arguably the biggest reason they weren’t able to retain him.

Still, it’s going to be tough seeing him go.

Tomlinson was part of a revamped offensive line, and he remains the longest-tenured Niners O-lineman under head coach Kyle Shanahan’s reign. Every other position has been switched out at least once since then, and one could make the argument Tomlinson was a big part of the team’s trip to two NFC Championship games in the last three season.

Now, the 30-year-old Tomlinson will hope to bring his “victory donuts” to Saleh and Co. in New York.

What do 49ers do without Laken Tomlinson?

It might have been the plan all along. But San Francisco appears poised to fully deploy and start its second-round NFL Draft pick from a year ago, Aaron Banks, in Tomlinson’s stead.

Banks, who initially competed for the starting right guard spot but lost out to Daniel Brunskill, played almost the entirety of his collegiate tenure at Notre Dame at left guard yet only managed to see five offensive snaps his rookie season.

Read More: 49ers 2022 NFL free agency tracker: Who’s coming and going?

Perhaps the 49ers anticipated Tomlinson leaving in NFL free agency almost a year ago, electing to use a second-round pick on Banks and not worrying so much about whether or not he’d be ready to go in year one.

Now, it looks as if that’ll have to be the plan moving forward.

If it works out well, fine. Yet it won’t change the fact Tomlinson was a key part of the Niners’ recent success, and one can only hope he finds it now with Gang Green.

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