49ers' Top Players to Prioritize in 2022 NFL Free Agency
The San Francisco 49ers must do everything in their power to re-sign Laken Tomlinson at the beginning of NFL free agency.
The team is entering a new era with Trey Lance at quarterback, and it could use as much quality protection for its second-year signal-caller.
The 49ers should also put the full press on re-signing Tomlinson so they can maintain the same high standard in the ground game that they have had under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
The 30-year-old will be one of the most coveted offensive-line free agents, so re-signing him could be tough, but he needs to be the first priority.
San Francisco must attempt to re-sign some key defensive players as well, but Tomlinson should be top of the list when the legal tampering period begins Monday.
Tomlinson has become one of the critical pieces of the San Francisco 49ers over the past few years.
The Duke product has been vital to the success of the 49ers' rushing attack, and he has been one of the most durable offensive linemen in the NFL.
Tomlinson played in every game in the last four regular seasons. He missed one contest in 2017, which was his first year with the franchise.
A player familiar with San Francisco's blocking scheme will be vital to continue the team's success in the ground game, and to help Lance find his presence in the pocket early in the 2022 season.
The 49ers will likely have to pay a high price to land Tomlinson because there should be plenty of competition for his signature.
The Cincinnati Bengals need help on the interior and it would make sense if the Miami Dolphins gave him a ring because of his connection with new head coach Mike McDaniel.
If the 49ers re-sign Tomlinson, they will achieve one of their top offseason goals and be able to approach other areas of need in free agency or via the NFL draft.
D.J. Jones was a force on the defensive interior for the 49ers last season.
The defensive tackle had 10 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles among the many impact plays he made while clogging up the run.
Jones' successful 2021 campaign should create a strong market for him, and it make him too expensive for the 49ers when a final decision has to be made.
San Francisco should still make a push to re-sign the 27-year-old because there are some unknowns about what the team can get out of Javon Kinlaw, who is rehabbing from an ACL injury.
The 49ers will have to weigh the risk of letting Jones go in exchange for a healthy Kinlaw, but they should at least make a run at the defensive tackle in case they can bring him back, or if they are priced out on the free-agent market.
The 49ers have a few decisions to make in the secondary, with Jason Verrett, K'Waun Williams and Jaquiski Tartt all scheduled to hit the free-agent market.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch broke down Verrett's situation for reporters while at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"We are keeping it open," he said. "That position, you can't have enough of them, and Jason is a really good one, when healthy. His problem has been staying healthy."
Verrett played in a single game during the 2021 season because of an injury, but he had 60 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions in 13 games in 2020.
The 30-year-old could be brought back on a cheaper deal that is friendly to the franchise to provide some depth at cornerback.
Re-signing Verrett might be a tough sell to some in the front office, but when healthy, he could make an impact at a position the 49ers need to address with so many talented wide receivers in the NFC West.