Aaron Banks can back 49ers into a corner if he plays well in 2024

Both Aaron Banks and the 49ers will be paying close attention to his efforts this season, as those will factor into whether or not he'll earn a new contract with the team in 2025 and beyond.
San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Aaron Banks (65)
San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Aaron Banks (65) / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Entering a contract year, Aaron Banks will force the 49ers into a very tough decision once 2024 is finished... provided he plays well.

Remember back in 2021 when then-rookie left guard Aaron Banks seemed to be a flop of an NFL Draft pick?

The former second-rounder out of Notre Dame hardly saw the field, leading many (including us) to believe the Niners had another early bust on their hands.

What many didn't know is San Francisco was simply waiting a year for Banks to make his impact. In 2021, the 49ers still had Pro Bowler Laken Tomlinson starting at left guard. But when he departed via free agency the following offseason, it was Banks who took over the starting gig and never looked back.

In the two years since, Banks has been a high-quality mainstay of the Niners offensive line, outdone only by the future Hall of Famer, left tackle Trent Williams, in terms of overall impact.

Banks is now entering a contract year in 2024 and should be highly motivated to capitalize on a lucrative contract a little less than a year from now.

But, will it be with San Francisco or someone else? That's a good question.

Just how good was Aaron Banks last season?

Starting 14 out of a possible 17 games last season, Banks certainly benefited from playing alongside Williams.

Pro Football Focus credited Banks with allowing precisely zero sacks over the course of 2024 and just six quarterback hits allowed. While their questionable grading system put him into the 50s, in terms of overall grade, about the only knock against Banks is the six penalties against.

Other than that, Banks has been both reliable and effective blocking in front of quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey.

Banks, who'll turn 27 years old early this upcoming season, should pride himself on his consistency.

Another quality year out of him might force the 49ers' hand.

Will 49ers re-sign Aaron Banks or let him hit free agency in 2025?

There are a number of factors at play here.

For starters, Over the Cap projects the Niners to be over $38 million above the 2025 salary cap. They'll get an additional $18 million in space once June 1 rolls around, thanks to this offseason's release of now-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Arik Armstead.

But, with a massive extension for Purdy looming, it's understood San Francisco won't have the financial resources to re-sign Banks easily.

Additionally, the 49ers do have a good history of rewarding their top stars while frequently letting their B-list contributors walk once hitting the open market. While he is a quality player, Banks isn't in that Class A category.

On top of all that, the Niners may have already drafted Banks' replacements by grabbing rookies Dominick Puni and Jarrett Kingston last April.

In contrast, though, guards rarely command the kind of top dollar as tackles do, meaning a re-sign deal for Banks won't be as costly as it would have been for, let's say, the idea of re-signing now-Denver Broncos right tackle Mike McGlinchey when he departed San Francisco in 2023.

The one true X-factor yet to be played out here, however, is how well Banks performs amid a contract year.

If it's at a high level again, would the 49ers opt to reward him while maintaining some continuity on a relatively shaky O-line? Or would Banks price himself out of the Niners' comfort range.

It's a tricky question, one that'll likely not be answered for some time but will be discussed for much of 2024.

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