Aaron Banks

49ers Looking Into O-Line Trades

After their offensive line included Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack last season, the 49ers lost each in the offseason. Their right tackle situation also presents questions, with Mike McGlinchey presently shut down after experiencing an issue in his return from surgery.

This has left San Francisco with an inexperienced front alongside Trent Williams. As a result, the team has made trade inquiries, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. No deal appears imminent, and the 49ers will obviously monitor the waiver wire closely at this position after teams cut their rosters down to 53 Tuesday.

The team has another experienced piece up front, in two-year right guard starter Daniel Brunskill, but as of now, he is not a projected starter. San Francisco’s interior line is expected to consist of 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks, veteran UDFA Jake Brendel and fourth-round rookie Spencer Burford, per Branch. Even Banks’ spot may be in question. The 49ers have been rotating Jason Poe, a rookie UDFA out of Division I-FCS Mercer, in place of Banks at points during this week’s practices, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes.

Kyle Shanahan did caution, with more than two weeks remaining until the 49ers’ opener, this group is not yet set. Colton McKivitz, a 2020 fifth-rounder who spent most of last season on the 49ers’ practice squad, is positioned as the team’s backup right tackle.

With Banks having played five offensive snaps as a rookie, Brendel having made three starts in six seasons and Burford a quick study from Conference USA, this represents a staggering shift for a team that advanced to the NFC championship game. Brendel has only logged 250 career offensive snaps.

Brunskill is also battling a hamstring injury. While a swing job may well await Brunskill, the team may need his experience soon. McGlinchey, who joins Brunskill in being on an expiring deal, appears to be week-to-week due to a knee issue. The fifth-year right tackle played eight snaps in the 49ers’ preseason opener, but he has not returned since. McGlinchey received a platelet-rich plasma treatment last week. The player who subbed for McGlinchey after his quadriceps tear last season, Tom Compton, signed with the Broncos in March.

The line Jimmy Garoppolo played behind appeared far more equipped than the one Trey Lance will have come Week 1. The 49ers will not be the only team looking to add O-linemen in the coming days, and their NFC title game cameo will make doing so more difficult. They sit 29th for waiver priority.

Latest On 49ers’ Offensive Line Situation

Last year saw the 49ers advance to their second NFC Championship game in the last three years, but the offensive line that took them there is set to look a bit different as San Francisco readies for the 2022 NFL season. The 49ers’ left guard for the last five seasons, Laken Tomlinson, is now a Jet, Tom Compton, who started seven regular season games and all three playoff games at right tackle for the team when Mike McGlinchey went down with an injury last year, is now in Denver, and last year’s starting center, Alex Mack, officially announced his retirement this week. 

San Francisco should be set at left tackle and right guard with 12-year veteran Trent Williams manning the blindside and Daniel Brunskill starting just right of center for the past two seasons. Though Compton, who played well in his time as an injury-replacement last year, is gone, the 49ers do return McGlinchey from injury to fill the right tackle spot. McGlinchey is heading into a contract year and will try to earn himself a solid second deal with his production this season. He’s been strong while run-blocking in his career, but started off with some struggles in pass-protection. McGlinchey was showing some improvement in his pass-pro before his injury last season, and the 49ers will likely give him a chance to show he can be the whole package.

With those three spots manned, the conversation now turns to left guard and center. The favorite to fill in at left guard is 2021 second-round draft pick Aaron Banks. Banks was slowed in his rookie-season by a preseason shoulder injury, leading to him appearing in nine games but only seeing five offensive snaps last season, getting most of his playing time on special teams. McGlinchey’s former-teammate at Notre Dame made tremendous progress throughout the season, though. Head coach Kyle Shanahan even said that Banks could have replaced Brunskill in the lineup late last season, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team held off on making that switch as they surged into the postseason with plenty of success, but with an opening at guard this year, it’s hard to imagine Banks not getting his opportunity.

At center, the options are much less clear-cut. With Mack gone, the only player on the roster with an NFL start at center is former undrafted free agent Jake Brendel, who started three games for the Dolphins in 2018. Brendel has been taking first-team snaps at center in practices, according to another article from Branch. General manager John Lynch claims that the team has “a lot of confidence in (Brendel’s) ability,” despite Brendel not being “a household name.” The 49ers also brought in their own undrafted rookie this year in Dohnovan West, who was Arizona State’s starting center all three years of his collegiate career.

Unless San Francisco plans to try some other rostered offensive line reserves at center this year, they may need to go to the free agent market. This would continue a trend that Lynch and the Niners have followed over the past few years of signing an impact free agent interior lineman in the weeks after the Draft. 2017 saw the addition of eventual starting right guard Brandon Fusco in early May, 2018 saw the addition of eventual starting right guard Michael Person in early May, and 2019 saw the addition of part-time starting center Ben Garland in late April.

Available free agent centers include NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, former Broncos and Panthers center Matt Paradis, former Bengals starting center Trey Hopkins, and former Texans lineman Nick Martin. Lynch may mean what he says and Brendel may be their man in the middle, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 49ers act on some of the available experience out there on the market.

With three spots filled with experienced starters and two very real options to fill the other two spots, San Francisco is on their way to building their offensive line for next season. Whether the five lineman running with the first team now will be the Week 1 starters is yet to be seen, but Lynch and Shanahan are aware of their options and may not be done addressing the position group just yet.

Kyle Shanahan: Aaron Banks Was Ready To Start Late Last Season

With Alex Mack retiring, the 49ers have now lost three of their 2021 offensive line starters. After five years in San Francisco, Laken Tomlinson joined the Jets in free agency. Although Tom Compton worked as a Mike McGlinchey fill-in, he played well; San Francisco’s primary 2021 right tackle is now in Denver.

These exits magnify this position group, which still returns McGlinchey, Trent Williams and Daniel Brunskill. The 49ers are aiming for 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks to take over for Tomlinson at left guard, with Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noting the Notre Dame product is the heavy favorite to start at that position. The 49ers considered making a late-season change at right guard last year, citing Banks’ development.

Kyle Shanahan said Banks had progressed to the point he could have replaced Brunskill in the lineup late last season. While the 49ers held off on making a change due to their second-half surge that ended in the NFC championship game, Shanahan certainly seems to have confidence Banks can man one of the team’s guard spots this year. Without Tomlinson and Mack, Banks’ progress becomes more important in Year 2.

A preseason shoulder injury stonewalled Banks’ potential path to the starting lineup, and the team did not pull his de facto redshirt henceforth. Banks played just five offensive snaps as a rookie. The 49ers ended up giving their first- and second-round picks from 2021 developmental seasons, with Trey Lance not threatening an injury-riddled Jimmy Garoppolo‘s job security. Lance detailed his own 2021 injury struggles recently and is still on track to replace Garoppolo in September. While that is not a lock, the 49ers are planning for Lance and Banks promotions to become official soon.

McGlinchey’s former college teammate, Banks would have played left tackle had he stayed for his 2021 senior season. He finished his junior year as an All-American guard. With Brunskill going into a contract year, Banks has a clear path to succeeding Tomlinson as San Francisco’s long-term guard option. The 49ers will count on 2021’s 48th overall pick shaking off his rookie-year no-show, or else they will need to start over on their interior O-line.

NFC West Notes: Seahawks, Watt, 49ers

After starting 16 games for the Cowboys last season, Aldon Smith has seen his career veer off track again. The Seahawks cut the talented edge defender last week, and Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes the team did not do so because of Smith’s on-field work. This was a non-football-related exit for Smith, whom Pete Carroll said (via the Tacoma News Tribune’s Greg Bell; video link) “couldn’t hang with” the Seahawks despite the team giving the suspension risk a “real shot.” The Seahawks signed Smith in April, but shortly after that agreement, the 32-year-old pass rusher was booked on a battery charge. He also was not in good enough shape to participate in Seattle’s June minicamp, raising more red flags about his 2021 viability. Smith was out of football from 2016-19, but Roger Goodell greenlit his reinstatement last year. Smith recorded five sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown with Dallas.

Here is more from Seattle and the latest from elsewhere in the NFC West:

  • The third and fourth seasons of Jamal Adamsfour-year, $70MM extension do not include any guaranteed money, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. That said, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl safety will collect all but $2.56MM of his $38MM in guarantees by February 2022. Because of Adams’ $20MM signing bonus being spread throughout the deal, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, the 2021 cap hit will be just $5MM. Adams’ contract also includes $2.75MM in incentives. Adams can collect $250K for each season he notches the rare (for other safeties, but in play for him) five-sack, three-interception double. The 25-year-old defender interestingly has just two career INTs, but he has met the sack requirement here twice — 6.5 in 2019, a safety-record 9.5 in 2020.
  • Aaron Banks had a good chance to become a 49ers starting guard in Week 1, but his lineup path will be delayed. The second-round pick suffered a shoulder injury in San Francisco’s first preseason game; he will be sidelined for as many as three weeks. While the Iowa product should be healthy at some point in September, Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes (subscription required) that this should allow Daniel Brunskill to keep his starting right guard spot come Week 1. Brunskill started all 16 49ers games at right guard last season.
  • The Cardinals won the J.J. Watt sweepstakes, but they hope to decrease the future Hall of Famer’s workload this season. They want Watt to play closer to 65% of their defensive snaps this season, rather than venturing into the 90% neighborhood, Jim Trotter of NFL.com notes. Despite his run of injuries in the late 2010s, Watt played 91% of the Texans’ snaps last season. In his seven non-injury-limited seasons, the five-time All-Pro played at least 88% of Houston’s defensive snaps. With Watt already dealing with a hamstring injury that will likely shelve him until Week 1, Arizona D-line coach Brentson Buckner is hoping to lighten his workload to maximize his productivity and extend his career.
  • After suffering a foot fracture for the second straight summer, Seahawks tight end Colby Parkinson received some good news. The break will not require surgery, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This will allow for a quicker return for the Stanford product. Prior to the setback, Parkinson was set to see time alongside Gerald Everett and Will Dissly this season.

OL Rumors: Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Solder, Eagles

The Raiders are tracking to have two starters from their 2020 Week 1 offensive line setup back, with Kolton Miller signed long-term and Richie Incognito back on a lower-cost deal. But spillover from another training camp battle may affect Incognito’s standing. Denzelle Good and John Simpson will vie for the starting right guard spot, but Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed of The Athletic note Raiders coaches have informed the team’s guards the loser of this competition may still wind up replacing Incognito at left guard (subscription required). Incognito, 38, played well in 2019 but missed 14 games due to an Achilles injury last season. The Raiders cut him in March but re-signed him weeks later on a one-year, $2.12MM deal. Good replaced Incognito last year, and the Raiders are hoping Simpson — a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Clemson — can win the right guard competition.

Here is more on the Raiders’ O-line and the latest from some other offensive fronts around the league:

  • Elsewhere on Las Vegas’ O-line, the center spot may not be much of a competition. Despite offseason addition Nick Martin having started four full seasons with the Texans, the former second-round pick appears to be clearly behind former UDFA Andre James, according to The Athletic. After trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, the Raiders gave James an extension. James has played 116 offensive snaps as a pro; all came in 2019.
  • Nate Solder has moved to the Giants‘ roster bubble, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 6-foot-8 veteran worked as New York’s starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19, after signing a then-record tackle contract in free agency, but opted out in 2020. The Giants can spread out Solder’s cap hit over multiple years, but they would face a $13.5MM cumulative dead-money charge by cutting Solder. Andrew Thomas has taken over as New York’s left tackle, with Raanan adding that Solder will compete with second-year blocker Matt Peart for the right tackle job. Solder has not been a full-time right tackle since his rookie season in 2011.
  • Although former UDFA Daniel Brunskill provided some stability amid 49ers injury chaos last season, starting 16 games, the team plans to return him to a utility role. The 49ers are eyeing second-round pick Aaron Banks as their starting right guard, Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic note. Brunskill worked as a swing backup as a rookie in 2019, primarily filling in for left tackle Joe Staley. The 49ers selected Banks 48th overall; the 325-pound rookie started in part of his sophomore season and throughout his junior and senior years at Notre Dame.
  • Rather than stockpile depth at tackle, the Eagles may look to trade the loser of the Andre DillardJordan Mailata left tackle competition, Eliot Shorr-Parks writes. While keeping both would provide insurance, Shorr-Parks notes moving Mailata in a contract year would make sense and Dillard may lose more value if he goes through this season as a backup. A 2019 first-round pick, Dillard missed all of last season due to injury and has logged just four career starts. A rugby convert chosen as a project in the 2018 seventh round, Mailata spent two full seasons in development but broke into Philadelphia’s starting lineup for 10 games last season.

49ers Sign Second-Round OL Aaron Banks

Another early draft pick signing to pass along. The 49ers made a big splash by drafting Trey Lance third overall, so their second pick didn’t get as much attention.

That would be guard Aaron Banks from Notre Dame, who is now officially ready to join the franchise. San Francisco has agreed to terms with Banks on his rookie deal, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The 48th pick in the draft will get a four-year contract worth $7.073MM with a $2.504MM signing bonus per his slot, as Aaron Wilson tweets. Banks was the first member of the 49ers’ class to ink his deal.

Banks is a Bay Area native from Alameda, so this is a cool homecoming for him. He started every game for the Fighting Irish the past two years, and was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2020. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com writes that Banks is a better run blocker than pass blocker.

Zierlein says he “has some physical limitations but should be fine as a potential early starter” on a team with “a physical running game.” That would certainly seem to fit Kyle Shanahan’s run-heavy scheme.