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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

5 key players who could be entering their final season with 49ers

Jun 17, 2024 at 3:23 PM

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Several San Francisco 49ers players are entering the final year of their contracts, which means they may be preparing for their last season in the Bay Area. Let's look at those with a higher chance of suiting up for another team next year.

Some seemingly obvious choices are not included in this list. For instance, while linebacker Dre Greenlaw and safety Talanoa Hufanga are entering the final years of their contracts, it appears manageable for the 49ers to sign both to extensions if addressed early. However, these deals will likely become more costly if San Francisco waits until after the season.

While some may view their departure odds as slightly higher, Greenlaw and Hufanga are coming off significant injuries. Greenlaw is likely to miss regular-season games as he continues to recover from the torn Achilles sustained in the Super Bowl. Hufanga aims to return from his ACL injury sometime during training camp and hopes to be ready for Week 1.

"The goal is to be ready by Week 1," Hufanga recently declared. "The goal is to be in training camp, not at the very beginning, but to ramp me up correctly, just so it's not throw you out there to the wolves and good luck. But trying to be smart with it."

Deommodore Lenoir is also entering the final year of his rookie deal. However, it seems unlikely the 49ers will allow their talented young cornerback to depart next year.

San Francisco currently has approximately $32.7 million in salary cap space and likely plans to roll as much of that over into 2025 as possible as the team gears up to make quarterback Brock Purdy its highest-paid player and one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.

This list isn't limited to players entering the final years of their deals. It also includes those who remain under contract but might become cap casualties.

Charvarius Ward

Cornerback Charvarius Ward is entering the final year of the three-year deal he signed with the 49ers in 2022. He acknowledged that he would welcome remaining with the team after the upcoming season but understands the business side of the NFL and the tough decisions that come with the salary cap era.

"Yeah, I'd like to stick around," Ward recently stated. "I feel like it's a good team. They love me here. I love it here. I love all the coaches, love my teammates, but I just let my agent handle it. That's the business side of things. I'll just do my job, go out there and ball, put the pressure on them. Hopefully, they give me a bag.

"If they don't, I know it won't be like any bad blood between me and them. It's just like it'll be a business decision, but I'm pretty sure they'd like to have me, and I'd like to stay here, for sure."

Ward underwent core muscle surgery in February after playing through the injury last season. He expects to be ready for the start of training camp.

"I was balling the second half of the season, so it really didn't take much of a toll on me, it seemed like it," Ward noted.

Brandon Aiyuk

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is hoping for a contract extension, but negotiations have reportedly not gone smoothly. He is set to earn $14.124 million in 2024 on a team-exercised fifth-year option but likely seeks a deal that pays more than twice that annually.

"Aiyuk believes he's a top guy, and so, something's got to give," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently stated. "And so, he's worked himself into a top-10 receiver conversation. We'll see. Not a lot of momentum right now. Not a lot of optimism."

While the 49ers remain hopeful, the lack of optimism might increase the chances that a long-term deal can't be reached. This could lead the team to utilize the franchise tag on Aiyuk next year and see if any suitors come calling ahead of the draft.

Deebo Samuel

If the 49ers sign Aiyuk to a contract extension, the cost of paying two receivers top-tier money might be too high, potentially making Deebo Samuel expendable.

Samuel is signed through the 2025 season, but the 49ers might shop him leading up to the draft, freeing up money while acquiring draft picks to mitigate the loss. Samuel will count $24.2 million against the salary cap next year.

Teams inquired about Samuel's availability around this year's draft. However, no offer was enticing enough for San Francisco to consider parting with its versatile offensive weapon.

When asked about the trade rumors, Samuel said, "Yeah, I heard it. Had a conversation with my agent about it. They was going back and forth with whoever it was. It was a thing at first, but we done moved past it."

Aaron Banks

Aaron Banks has started 30 games over the past two seasons and six playoff games. The 49ers are high on the guard, but if it looks like he might command a high price, the team is unlikely to overspend on him.

San Francisco drafted two offensive linemen, Dominick Puni and Jarrett Kingston, which might indicate eventual plans for changes along the offensive line.

"When it's time to cross that bridge, we'll cross that bridge," Banks recently stated when asked about his future. "I'm just working on controlling what I can control, and coming in and putting good tape out, and working hard every day."

Banks has never earned high marks from Pro Football Focus. While his 52.8 overall grade from the analytics site ranked seventh among 49ers offensive linemen with at least 200 snaps, he didn't allow a sack last season (including the playoffs). However, Banks allowed 36 pressures in 597 pass-blocking snaps while committing eight penalties.

Kyle Juszczyk

Every year, fullback Kyle Juszczyk's future seems to come into question. While he only averages about half a million dollars more than the next-highest-paid NFL fullback, per, Juszczyk will be 34 years old entering the 2025 season, his 13th in the NFL. He is set to count approximately $6.5 million against the salary cap next year, and San Francisco has an out on his deal after the upcoming season.

Juszczyk is still considered one of the top fullbacks in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors this past season. However, his Pro Football Focus grade has gradually declined from 74.9 in 2019 to 56.0 last season (including the playoffs). While Juszczyk's pass-blocking grade was 74.8 last season, his run-blocking grade has dropped from 73.1 in 2019 to 56.6 in 2023.

Juszczyk's eventual replacement isn't currently on the roster, which may make parting ways with the fullback challenging. The fullback restructured his deal in March and may be asked to do so again in the near future.

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