49ers would be wise to steer clear of free-agent OL Laken Tomlinson

Sounds nice. But, no.

New York Jets guard Laken Tomlinson (78)
New York Jets guard Laken Tomlinson (78) / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers could entertain a reunion with veteran guard Laken Tomlinson, but they'd be smarter to pass.

Victory donuts.

During his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, one that lasted from a trade with the Detroit Lions in 2017 through 2021, guard Laken Tomlinson certainly endeared himself to the Faithful as a regular stalwart on what was otherwise an ever-changing offensive line.

And his unique "victory donuts" celebration after games was pretty fun, too.

Yet the Niners paved the way for his replacement in 2021 by drafting Aaron Banks in Round 2, which led to Tomlinson's free-agent departure the following season and a subsequent hefty deal with the New York Jets.

Two full seasons later, the Jets are parting ways with Tomlinson in a cap-saving move.

This, of course, prompts an obvious question: Should San Francisco, clearly in need of O-line help, go out and sign the one-time Pro Bowler as a free agent?

It should be a fairly simple answer.


49ers shouldn't go after Laken Tomlinson this offseason

By every account, Tomlinson was well-liked and respected in the 49ers locker room. And he never misses time because of injuries either.

For a Niners team ready to win a Super Bowl now, going after an established veteran who is already familiar with the offense seems like a no-brainer move.

There are a few problems with this, though.

First, Tomlinson has exclusively played left guard throughout his career. Banks, who has come into his own over the last two seasons, is already entrenched at that spot. It would require a serious upgrade for San Francisco to consider moving on from him. As such, switching Tomlinson over to the right side would require a complete rehoning of his skill set, and it's not something done easily.

Second, Tomlinson just turned 32 years old. While O-linemen can easily play well into their 30s (All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams will turn 36 years old this offseason), a priority for the 49ers needs to be getting both younger and cheaper.

For a Niners team already dealing with salary-cap challenges, offering anything more than a veteran's minimum contract for someone like Tomlinson would be risky.

Third, this year's NFL Draft is potentially historic when it comes to top-flight O-line prospects, both at guard and at tackle. Armed with potentially 11 picks in this year's draft, San Francisco can afford to take multiple swings at reinforcing and upgrading the O-line with younger, cheaper players.

Fourth and finally, Tomlinson's two years with Gang Green were nothing short of disastrous. According to Pro Football Focus, the veteran lineman allowed a whopping 51 pressures over the course of 2023.

No one allowed more.

While Tomlinson's context with the 49ers likely influenced his Pro Bowl-caliber play, there's an awfully strong chance he's already in the steep-decline portion of his career, which adds yet another layer of risk to a Niners team that can't afford too many of those entering 2024.

Sure, Tomlinson was great during his days donning the red and gold. But San Francisco would be wiser to pass on signing him.

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