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Laken Tomlinson to Jets, per report

Tomlinson was someone the Bengals reportedly had interest in.

Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The impact of the Cincinnati Bengals making the Super Bowl has been heavily felt in free agency. Getting to the Big Game is impressive in its own right, but knowing the reason behind the loss got the team to spend big money on Alex Cappa and followed that with signing Ted Karras.

Cappa and Karras were solid players available, but arguably the best guard on the market was San Francisco 49ers stud Laken Tomlinson.

However, Tomlinson is landing elsewhere, as he’s reportedly agreed to a deal with the New York Jets.

After playing and starting 52 games in his collegiate career, Tomlinson became Duke’s sixth first-round pick at the time and the first since 1987. The Detroit Lions made him the second guard taken in the 2015 draft by selecting him 28th overall.

The Lions would not see the best of Tomlinson, unfortunately, as they ended up trading him to the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2017 offseason. Tomlinson lasted just two years with the Lions and all the 49ers had to give up was a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Once he got to the Bay Area, Tomlinson started performing like the first-round pick he was. He signed a three-year extension with the 49ers during the 2018 offseason, which is expiring this week.

Tomlinson has been worth the investment for San Francisco because of how well he fit their offense. He’s an athletic run blocker who explodes out of his stance and gets horizontal quickly. His quickness for his size makes him an exemplary fit for a zone-blocking system, and the 49ers base a lot of their offense around the concepts that come with that.

Run-blocking is Tomlinson’s forte, but that athleticism gets put to good use in pass protection as well. Being nimble on your feet with the sturdiness of his build gives a great base to work with when pass blocking, but his hands are an asset as well. He times and places punches with consistency.

Being healthy has allowed Tomlinson to develop into the player he is. He only missed one game in his five years in San Francisco, and that was all the way back in 2017. Having a durable past will always make you an attractive option on the market. Tomlinson has been durable and then some during the prime of his career.

It’s a good thing Tomlinson has avoided injuries because it’s fair to wonder if his age will end up being a factor in how much new money he reels in. He just turned 30 last month, so this deal is likely to be the last sizable one he takes home in his playing career. That he’s likely at the peak of his career is another factor in this. Are you paying for past production more than future potential, and is that smart to do?

The Bengals, specifically, haven’t pursued many free agents who are 30 and older with multi-year deals. In fact, they’ve already agreed to reported multi-year deals with Alex Cappa (27) and Ted Karras (28).

They were reportedly interested in Tomlinson, but the deal he just got with the Jets was likely a little too rich for the Bengals’ taste for a 30-year-old lineman.

On the field, the one question mark with Tomlinson is how his pass-blocking production would translate outside of the 49ers’ offense. Not only has he played next to the best left tackle in football in Trent Williams for the past two years, Kyle Shanahan’s scheme involves an inordinate amount of play action and non-traditional passing plays that go beyond just straight drop back situations.

The strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses here. The argument for Tomlinson being the best guard on the market is a strong one because there just aren’t many holes in his profile. He’s an extremely solid and stable left guard who had the aptitude to handle what the Bengals want to do schematically.

Hopefully, the Bengals got it right with Cappa/Karras and won’t regret not signing Tomlinson.