Vikings: $52 Million Pro Bowl Lineman Floated as Replacement for ‘Risky Player’

Laken Tomlinson, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Guard Laken Tomlinson #78 of the New York Jets.

The Minnesota Vikings’ efforts to find a quarterback of the future could be for nothing if they don’t provide whoever is under center with adequate protection.

Fortunately for the Vikings, they earned the third-best pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus last season. But they have let left guard Dalton Risner linger in the limbo of free agency and could be in the market for an upgrade over his current replacement, Blake Brandel.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder suggests the Vikings kick the tires on New York Jets free agent Laken Tomlinson.

“Blake Brandel is currently penciled in as the team’s starting left guard,” Holder wrote on April 7. “The 2020 sixth-round pick only has five career starts, making him a risky player to rely on when it comes to protecting the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, Tomlinson has 138 career starts at left guard and would be one of the best veteran options Minnesota can turn to at this stage in the game.”

Tomlinson’s most distinguishing quality may be his availability.

A first-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2015, Tomlinson has missed just one game in his career. He has started every game possible since the 2017 season when he missed that one game.

Vikings Could Add Durable Veteran in Laken Tomlinson

Laken Tomlinson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyLaken Tomlinson #78 of the New York Jets.

After the Lions, Tomlinson spent five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He was a member of their Super Bowl team in 2019 and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2021.

Tomlinson spent the last two seasons with the Jets.

The Jets released him from his three-year, $40 million contract to save roughly $8 million against the salary cap. He’s made good money with $52.7 million in career earnings. He could still command a significant commitment to sign even at this late stage.

Money is also at the heart of Risner’s prolonged stay in free agency. He is seeking a “starting guard contract,” per his post on X on March 12.

Tomlinson got the lowest grades of his career in the last two seasons, per PFF.

That could be a cause for pause. Like Risner, he also fared better at pass blocking than he did blocking for the run. But the Jets’ entire offense was a mess last season, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers going down just four snaps into the season.

Of course, Tomlinson would be playing in front of journeyman quarterback Sam Darnold, incumbents Nick Mullens or Jaren Hall, or a rookie with the Vikings.

Everything Comes Back to Vikings’ QB Decision

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

GettyGeneral Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (L) and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

Whoever the Vikings decide to roll with at quarterback in Week 1 of the 2024 season, their decision will have a ripple effect on the entire organization. They have spoken confidently about Darnold, whose addition could signal a lack of faith in Mullens and Hall.

However, Darnold’s addition has not quelled rumors of their interest in securing a quarterback in the 2024 draft and pursuing a trade to do so.

They have an additional first-round pick from their previous trade with the Houston Texans.

The uncertainty at the position could impact Justin Jefferson, who is due for a new, potentially record-setting contract. It could also affect the job security of General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell.