The New York Jets ranked Laken Tomlinson over another free agent guard who earned more money
As the New York Jets prepared for the 2022 free agency period, it was clear that the guard position was one of their top needs. New York had one starting guard secured in the young Alijah Vera-Tucker, but the other starting guard spot was a massive weakness.
Luckily for New York, the 2022 NFL free agent market was loaded with quality starting guards. Armed with oodles of cap space, the Jets were ready to make a big splash in the guard market.
Some of the quality starters set to become available at the position included Laken Tomlinson (San Francisco 49ers), James Daniels (Chicago Bears), Austin Corbett (Los Angeles Rams), and Andrew Norwell (Jacksonville Jaguars).
But the consensus No. 1 player of the crop was undoubtedly Washington Commanders right guard Brandon Scherff. The former fifth overall pick is a five-time Pro Bowler and was a first-team All-Pro in 2020.
As expected, Scherff ended up earning the most lucrative contract of any free agent guard in 2022 – but that deal did not come from New York. Scherff joined the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year, $49.5 million deal ($16.5M per year) with $30 million guaranteed.
The Jets would make the NFL’s second-biggest signing at the position, agreeing to terms with Laken Tomlinson on a three-year, $40 million deal ($13.3M per year) with $27 million guaranteed.
Some may connect the dots and conclude that the Jets lost out on Scherff’s services and settled for Tomlinson as a consolation prize.
However, as revealed by the documentary “Flight 2022”, that was not the case at all. It appears that the Jets actually preferred Tomlinson over Scherff.
Starting at about the 1:28 mark in Episode 2 of the new doc that covers the Jets’ 2022 offseason, the Jets’ top decision-makers can be seen discussing their thoughts on Tomlinson while mapping out their plans for free agency.
Greg Nejmeh, the Jets’ director of pro personnel, said Tomlinson was their “top-ranked guy” at the guard position and an “A-graded player.” Nejmeh added that “obviously [Tomlinson’s] durability is an A-plus to give him the nod over Scherff.”
Keep in mind that this footage was recorded before the Jets were even allowed to get in contact with Tomlinson or his agent, so it’s not as if they were just pumping up a player they had already added. Tomlinson truly was their No. 1 guy at the guard position going into free agency.
Tomlinson has only missed one game since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2015, and that one absence wasn’t even injury-related (he was a healthy scratch for the first game of the 2017 season as he had just been traded to the 49ers only 10 days before the game). He’s played in 119 out of 120 possible regular season and playoff games in his career.
Scherff, on the other hand, is one of the most oft-injured players in the NFL. Scherff has missed multiple games in five consecutive seasons, including at least five games in three of the past four seasons. He missed six games in 2021.
The Jets have struggled mightily to stay healthy over the past few years. It’s promising for Jets fans to know that durability is one of the team’s top priorities when evaluating potential new additions to the roster.