The Detroit Lions finally traded Laken Tomlinson on Thursday, sending the former first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for just a 2019 fifth-round pick. By the end of 2016, it was clear Tomlinson had fallen out of favor with the Lions’ front office, especially since Bob Quinn’s crew wasn’t the one to draft him back in 2015.
Tomlinson’s trade affects the Lions and their players in many ways, so let me give my quick thoughts on the transaction.
Detroit got all they could for Tomlinson
It never looks good when a former first-round pick gets traded for a future fifth just two years after getting drafted. This represents a clear failure by Martin Mayhew, even if he’s ironically the one who probably masterminded this trade as he now works for the 49ers’ front office.
But Tomlinson had little-to-no value with the Lions anymore. There’s a good chance, having been firmly behind Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl on the depth chart, that Tomlinson would have been cut this weekend.
Even though Lions offensive line coach Ron Prince thinks Tomlinson could still be an NFL starter in this league, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen in Detroit, and other teams knew that. Detroit didn’t have a lot of leverage in this situation, so getting a fifth-round pick is just about all you could expect in return.
The Lions saved a little scratch for a future move?
The trade opened up just over $1.2 million in cap space for the Lions in 2017. However, they will still have $1.1 million in dead money next year. So in total, the move only technically saved them $92,706 over two years.
However, if they had chosen to cut Tomlinson instead, they would have incurred no cap savings in 2017 (his salary was guaranteed) and the same $1.1 million in dead money. To put it simply, if the two options were to cut Tomlinson or trade him, the Lions saved $1.2 million by trading him.
Combine that with the $5.5 million of cap room created by Matthew Stafford’s extension and suddenly the Lions have a little wiggle room to take on a big salary via a trade or free agent signing. The Lions have a desperate need for a defensive lineman, so I would expect a move relatively soon.
Good news for Brandon Thomas or Leo Koloamatangi?
With another spot on the roster open for grabs, Detroit will likely fill it with one of their interior lineman on the roster.
Bob Quinn traded for Brandon Thomas last year and clearly sees something in him. Though he’s been fairly quiet this offseason, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News says he’s been starting to turn heads. Back on Monday, before the Lions traded Tomlinson, Rogers wrote this: “Thomas is making a bit of a push, but contractual factors make it difficult to put him ahead of Tomlinson.”
With the contractual obligations now out of the way, Thomas may be the new Lions backup guard.
However, don’t count out undrafted rookie Leo Koloamatangi. The Hawaii native brings some versatility as both a guard and center. Although his hype has died down significantly since taking second-string reps early in training camp, he could still find his way onto the roster.
Overall, this was a savvy move by Quinn. It created some much-needed cap room for this season, and he got something tangible out of a player that was clearly no longer in this team’s future. While the Lions’ situation at left guard remains scary, Quinn essentially turned something out of nothing.
What grade do you give the Laken Tomlinson trade?
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