ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler and analyst Matt Bowen teamed up to pick the best fits for the top 50 free agents this offseason. The San Francisco 49ers only have one impending free agent who ranked on the list, left guard Laken Tomlinson. Fowler and Bowen determined the best fit for Tomlinson this offseason would be with former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniels and the Miami Dolphins. However, Fowler revealed an interesting tidbit, writing, “Expect the 49ers to open extension talks closer to free agency.”
The Niners have an opportunity to keep Tomlinson from negotiating with other teams if they agree to an extension before March 15th, when free agents can begin negotiating with other organizations. By delaying the start of extension talks, San Francisco is leaving less time to sort through any differences between their offers and Tomlinson’s demands.
Given the 49ers' limited salary cap space, it’s hard to envision Tomlinson re-signing if he hits the open market. One of the most consistent guards in the NFL over his five-year tenure in San Francisco; several other teams would likely make better financial offers to insert Tomlinson along their offensive line.
Two different factors could be leading the 49ers front office to delay negotiating with Tomlinson. First, everyone knows the Niners are trying to find a trade partner for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco needs to trade Garoppolo to create cap space to fill out their roster and re-sign players like Tomlinson. The front office could want to ensure they have a landing spot for Jimmy G before working on any other sizable deals.
Secondly, our own Jordan Elliott has argued that the 49ers should let Tomlinson walk in free agency. Delaying negotiations could suggest that the Niners are only interested in retaining Tomlinson at a significant discount and are planning to replace him next season.
Tomlinson was originally selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He was traded to the 49ers for a fifth-round pick prior to the 2017 season. He has played in 112 games (104 starts) over his seven-year career and was selected to his first Pro Bowl this season.