‘Above-Average’ Free Agent Named Fit to Replace John Simpson for Ravens

John Simpson

Getty The Baltimore Ravens can replace left guard John Simpson with an "above-average" free agent.

Three key offensive linemen left the Baltimore Ravens during 2024 NFL free agency, including left guard John Simpson, somebody “above-average” veteran Laken Tomlinson could replace.

Tomlinson has been a named a fit by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who spelled out the Ravens’ need for the former Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets’ starter. Barnwell noted how 32-year-old Tomlinson “wasn’t sustainable for the Jets with a $12 million base salary, but he wouldn’t land anywhere near that amount in free agency, and the Ravens still have about $14 million in cap space.”

Ample remaining cap space would leave Barnwell “surprised” if the Ravens “didn’t at least have a serious conversation about trying to bring in Tomlinson, who rated as an above-average guard as recently as 2022.”

Replacing Simpson is the obvious spot for the capable veteran. Simpson joined the Jets, along with right tackle Morgan Moses, but the Ravens at least have options for replacing the latter and right guard Kevin Zeitler.

It’s a different story when it comes to successfully moving on from Simpson.

Replacing John Simpson a Tough Task for Ravens

The plan for replacing Zeitler and Moses on the right already seems set. Barnwell pointed out how Ben Cleveland is “likely going to get the first crack at replacing Zeitler in the right guard spot.”

Meanwhile, there are multiple options to succeed Moses, including Patrick Mekari, who “shined when he was forced to play right tackle because of injuries in 2021.” There’s also Daniel Faalele, “a 380-pound tackle who was drafted in Round 4 in 2022.”

There are no such alternatives for Simpson, who performed above expectations after joining the Ravens’ practice squad in December 2022. The former Las Vegas Raiders interior lineman started all 17 games last season and became a key cog in the NFL’s most prolific rushing attack.

Simpson was never shy about throwing his 6-foot-4, 330-pound frame into unfortunate, would-be tacklers. It’s what Simpson did against inside linebacker Anthony Walker and the Cleveland Browns in Week 12, on a block highlighted by former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz.

Simpson’s combination of size and nasty was vital to the bruising way the Ravens punish defenses on the ground. Fortunately, Tomlinson’s playing style would replicate those attributes.

Laken Tomlinson a Natural Fit for Ravens

Tomlinson is durable, powerful and mobile. Just what the Ravens need to maintain the strength of their ground attack.

Tomlinson’s resilience is proved by him having not missed a single game since the 2017 season. The 6-foot-3, 323-pounder has also been adept at clearing rushing lanes, particularly when playing for the run-heavy 49ers during the 2020 and ’21 seasons, as grades from PFF NY Jets show.

Admittedly, Tomlinson’s performances have been on the decline since he joined the Jets. The nine-year pro allowed seven sacks and 51 pressures in 2023, while also posting a modest 49.6 run-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus.

Returning to a team that places greater value on power running and brute force in the trenches, like the Ravens, would surely help Tomlinson get back to his best. Putting him next to veteran left tackle Ronnie Stanley would also ensure the Ravens have experience on one side of the line, leaving general manager Eric DeCosta to focus draft resources on fortifying the right.

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