Jets Release $40 Million Starter Ahead of Free Agency: ‘I’m Surprised’

Laken Tomlinson, Jets

Getty New York Jets offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson reacting in the middle of an NFL game.

The first major domino has fallen for the New York Jets during the 2024 offseason.

ESPN NFL Insider Jeremy Fowler shared on X previously Twitter that “The Jets are releasing guard Laken Tomlinson.”

Connor Hughes of SNY reacted to the move on social media saying, “I’m surprised.”

“Performance wasn’t what they’d hoped, which is stunning when you think about it, but I felt he’d improve immensely by stabilizing those next to him. Not to mention: He was always available — a Jet rarity. This [is now another hole they need to fill,” Hughes explained on social media. “I’m not sure Jets fans realize how challenging it will be to find a new LT, LG, RT, or RG (pending AVT), plus depth for AVT (can’t rely on health) in one offseason. Jets haven’t found all of those pieces in the last five. I’d be a bit concerned, especially with this a do-or-die year.”

Hard to Explain Why the Tomlinson-Jets Pairing Didn’t Work

The Jets dove into the deep end of the pool in free agency in 2022. Gang Green went to the top of the market investing $40 million to sign Tomlinson away from the San Francisco 49ers.

The Jets wanted to make it as seamless of a transition for Tomlinson as possible. Gang Green flipped their young promising offensive lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker, from left guard to right guard after signing Laken.

Tomlinson has played left guard nearly exclusively, outside of a handful of snaps, his entire professional career since entering the league back in 2015.

The Jets did everything in their power to make this a free-agent homerun. He stayed at the same position he had previously and Tomlinson was going to play in the same scheme he did with the 49ers.

Despite all that commonality, it just never clicked with Tomlinson.

The former Duke product registered underwhelming Pro Football Focus grades in both of his seasons with the Jets:

  • 2023: 55.0 overall, 60.6 pass block, and 49.6 run block.
  • 2022: 56.8 overall, 70.2 pass block, and 46.9 run block.

The one area Tomlinson has continued to thrive in is attendance. Tomlinson played in 34 out of 34 possible games in a Jets uniform. That ironman streak dates back to 2017 when he was traded to the 49ers from the Detroit Lions. Over the last seven years, Tomlinson has started in 114 straight games.

Jets Have Opened up Some Serious Cap Space

Fowler said the Jets decision to cut Tomlinson opened up “around” $8.1 million in cap space.

Hughes said on social media that the team now has $24.7 million in available cap space which ranks No. 18 in the NFL.

New York is expected to make more moves this offseason to create additional cap space ahead of free agency.

Tomlinson didn’t live up to his contract, but his removal creates yet another void on the offensive line to fill ahead of a pivotal 2024 campaign.

The only two starting offensive linemen that are left on the roster are Joe Tippmann and AVT. Both players have positional versatility in the trenches, but Tippmann most recently played center and AVT was at offensive tackle before he got hurt.

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