Sixteen different 49er players spoke to the media Monday in an exit interview-style as each player recapped the season that was. The theme was consistent as each player was excited to see Trey Lance next season while they were proud of the way Jimmy Garoppolo handled everything he went through this past season.
With free agency looming — check out Marc’s offseason primer yet if you haven’t — the 49ers have some decisions to make and some holes to fill. Two of the more underrated decisions involve D.J. Jones and Laken Tomlinson.
There is no decision for Jones, in my opinion. The 27-year-old proved he could stay healthy for a full season. That was the only knock on him coming into the year. Sure, you’d like to get more pass rush out of Jones. His pressure numbers were in line with the rest of his career.
Jones was a monster against the run. A healthy season led to career-highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and, perhaps most importantly, an average depth of tackle. D.J. averaged a tackle at 1.2 yards. That doesn’t factor in the double teams he split or held up so the linebackers behind him could make plays.
The health of Javon Kinlaw should be another reason to bring back Jones. Who knows if Kinlaw will ever be fully healthy. Arik Armstead made Kinlaw an afterthought. Replacing Jones wouldn’t be nearly as easy.
Jones spoke to the media Monday, calling it a special year and how he wants to “come back and continue” what this team has built. Jones acknowledged that there hadn’t been any contract extension talks yet: No, sir. As simple as that. I don’t believe they’ve talked just yet. But I hope they will sooner than later.”
Jones shouldn’t break the bank, which should make him easier to re-sign. Over the Cap’s valuation of Jones’ 2021 season is just north of $5.3 million. That’s a cap number of roughly $2 million higher than what Jones made this past season. He earned it and is still relatively young. This should be a no-brainer for the 49ers.
On the other side of the ball, Laken Tomlinson has been available and consistent since the 49ers acquired him from the Lions just before the start of 2017. Tomlinson hasn’t missed a start. The team drafted Aaron Banks in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but Banks practiced at right guard. Tomlinson and Trent Williams seem like they have a great relationship.
Laken is aware that this is a business, though: “I would love to stay, but I know it’s a business, and we’ll just see what happens. But I love it here, I always loved it here, and everyone’s been great to me here.”
Tomlinson said he owes the organization and a lot of people in the building thank yous for having faith in him and shaping him to be the man he is today.
Over the Cap’s valuation of Tomlinson’s 2021 season was $8.9 million. That would make him the 16th highest-paid guard in the NFL. He didn’t finish the season the way he wanted to, but Tomlinson only allowed two sacks all season and had one penalty in pass protection. And you can count on him playing every game. I’d give him another contract.