'Great Signing': Laken Tomlinson Brings Poise, Mentorship to Seattle Seahawks O-Line

Jumping headfirst into the fray with his new team, Laken Tomlinson has quickly acquitted himself to a young Seahawks line and a new staff as a leader by example.
Seahawks guards Laken Tomlinson and McClendon Curtis listen for instructions prior to a drill during an OTA practice.
Seahawks guards Laken Tomlinson and McClendon Curtis listen for instructions prior to a drill during an OTA practice. / Corbin Smith/All Seahawks
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RENTON, Wash. - Time flies in the NFL. But as he gears up for mandatory minicamp with his new team, veteran Seattle Seahawks guard Laken Tomlinson doesn't need to be reminded of that fact.

Preparing for the first of three minicamp practices this week, Tomlinson continues to dial things up approaching his 10th NFL season. As he told reporters before Tuesday's session, he had to do a double take when considering he's now hit double digits seasons for his career since being drafted out of Duke in 2015, acknowledging that he's been fortunate to avoid injuries while playing in 146 out of 147 possible regular season games since breaking into the league.

"It's crazy to say, but I'm going into my 10th year and I've been blessed to play in X-amount of games," Tomlinson said of his durability. "Young guys will come up to me and ask 'what does it take to play through those 16 game, 17 game seasons? How do you take care of your body?' I try to educate them as much as possible. Everyone is themselves as individuals, but you have to figure out what works for you to be your best self on the field every Sunday."

While his rookie year may not seem that long ago in the grand scheme of things and he has lost count of how many games he actually has suited up for during stints with the Lions, 49ers, and Jets, the 32-year old Tomlinson joins the Seahawks as the clear elder statesman for an otherwise quite young offensive line. And his presence couldn't have come at a better time for an organization in transition, starting with a brand new coaching staff.

Before signing a one-year deal in March, Seattle lost former starting guard Damien Lewis and center Evan Brown to Carolina and Arizona in free agency respectively and opted not to re-sign Phil Haynes, who remains a free agent. In the aftermath of those departures, the team had only one center or guard on the roster with 10 or more starts in second-year blocker Anthony Bradford, who endured a crash course at right guard as a rookie as Haynes battled through injuries.

From left to right, starting with 2022 top-10 pick Charles Cross at left tackle, the Seahawks didn't have a single projected starter with more than three years of NFL experience. At left guard, free agent signee Tremayne Anchrum didn't start a game in four years with the Rams, while second-year center Olu Oluwatimi started a single game in Brown's place as a rookie and Bradford was the seasoned veteran in the interior with less than a full season of starting reps.

On top of the dearth of experience in the middle, right tackle Abraham Lucas underwent surgery on a troublesome knee in January, putting his status for the start of the 2024 season up in the air. If not for the timely signing to bring back veteran utility tackle George Fant, Seattle would have had a similar dilemma at one of the bookend spots.

"A great signing," coach Mike Macdonald said of Tomlinson, saying he would be on the team's nine-player leadership board. "Kind of hits you between the eyes communication wise, which is what you're asking for. Brings a veteran presence to our offensive line, some poise, a guy that's seen a lot of ball in a lot of different systems, so very excited about having Laken on our offensive line."

Given circumstances, the Seahawks badly needed a seasoned pro who could step right in and provide invaluable leadership for a green group up front. Since signing the dotted line a few weeks before the 2024 NFL Draft, Tomlinson has filled the void, arriving for the start of voluntary OTAs to get right to work between the lines while also taking young players under his wing, embracing the role of much-needed mentor.

Just a few weeks after starting his latest chapter in the Pacific Northwest, Tomlinson was all smiles when asked about building camaraderie with his new line mates, specifically citing Cross and Oluwatimi, who have been taking all of the snaps on both sides of him with Seattle's first-team offensive line to this point.

"It's been great, to be honest," Tomlinson smiled. "Those two guys have been here everyday and they're busting their tails. Extremely respectful guys, they come up and ask me questions like 'how you feel about this? How you feel about that?' And even just doing the little stuff like staying after the practices and going through things that can happen in a game, certain scenarios. It's been great working with them and I really appreciate that from both of those guys because building that chemistry, especially this time of year, is extremely important for our offensive group."

From a big picture perspective, the Seahawks didn't sign Tomlinson simply for his ability to connect with younger players such as Cross, Oluwatimi, and third-round pick Christian Haynes. With 138 career starts and a Pro Bowl on his resume, they will be counting on him to be an anchor for the middle of the line in pass protection and as a run blocker and provide stability for a group that hasn't had much continuity in the interior in recent years.

Enduring a difficult season with the Jets last year, per Pro Football Focus, Tomlinson struggled allowing seven sacks and 51 pressures, the worst marks of his career. But in his defense, New York's offense was a dumpster fire all year long and injuries made life difficult with players constantly shuffling in and out of the lineup in front of a backup quarterback.

Only one year earlier after signing with the Jets in free agency, Tomlinson only surrendered one sack and posted a respectable pass blocking efficiency rate of 97.6 percent, performing at a far superior level with a healthier supporting cast up front. With a change of scenario, the Seahawks will be hoping to see him round back into form alongside Cross, who the team still has high hopes for as a potential top-10 left tackle.

But as Macdonald acknowledged, Tomlinson's addition means so much more to Seattle than knocking defenders off the ball and protecting Geno Smith in the pocket. With the line group consisting mostly of young, untested pups who have much to learn facing off against NFL competition, his ability to connect with other players and willingness to go the extra mile to dish out support for teammates could be a real game changer this season.

In order for the Seahawks to take the next step after back-to-back 9-8 seasons and one playoff loss, the line as a whole will have to perform better than it did a year ago. Though Lucas' health will continue to be an X-factor to watch, having a savvy, respected veteran in Tomlinson who has been through the battles in the trenches as a nine-year starter could be the missing ingredient to elevate the rest of the unit as needed to contend in the NFC West.

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Corbin K. Smith


Graduating from Manchester College in 2012, Smith began his professional career as a high school Economics teacher in Indianapolis and launched his own NFL website covering the Seahawks as a hobby. After teaching and coaching high school football for five years, he transitioned to a full-time sports reporter in 2017, writing for USA Today's Seahawks Wire while continuing to produce the Legion of 12 podcast. He joined the Arena Group in August 2018 and also currently hosts the daily Locked On Seahawks podcast with Rob Rang and Nick Lee. Away from his coverage of the Seahawks and the NFL, Smith dabbles in standup comedy, is a heavy metal enthusiast and previously performed as lead vocalist for a metal band, and enjoys distance running and weight lifting. A habitual commuter, he resides with his wife Natalia in Colorado and spends extensive time reporting from his second residence in the Pacific Northwest.