Brandon Aiyuk

Rice shares what Aiyuk's priority should be amid 49ers contract talks

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STATELINE, Nev. — Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk still does not have his contract extension with the days counting down before the opening of 49ers training camp.

While Aiyuk’s uncertain contract situation has been a major topic during the offseason, the greatest receiver in football history emphasized that what happens on the football field must take priority.

“I think his main focus right now, Brandon Aiyuk, is just to play football,” Rice told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

“Play football and just let his ability speak for itself, and we'll see what happens after the season. That's in his control. That's what you want.”

Aiyuk is seeking a long-term extension before the start of the season. Aiyuk is scheduled to play this season under the fifth-year option of $14.124 million.

If the 49ers and Aiyuk do not reach a contract agreement, he might be forced to play this season on his current contract. Then, he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency next offseason.

Of course, the 49ers could also tag him next year as their franchise player, which could open potential trade options. Aiyuk figures to become one of the league’s top-paid receivers with his next contract.

“I think he would love to have had that security already, and he wouldn't have to really think about it and he can just go play football,” Rice said. “But he still has an opportunity where he can just showcase his ability.

“I think the main thing for him right now, he's just got to play his best football. He’s got to show everybody that, ‘Hey, look, I'm that No. 1 guy. And if you, make me that No. 1 guy, I’m going to be productive.’ ”

Aiyuk led the 49ers in receptions and receiving yards the past two seasons. He had 75 catches for a career-best 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns in 2023 while being named Second Team All-Pro.

While Rice said he could not make any predictions about how Aiyuk’s contract is resolved, he said he did not want the issue to stand in the way of the team’s success.

“That's up to management,” Rice said. “They make the decisions. They do all of those things. And we'll see what happens, though. But we can't let that be a distraction or anything because that door eventually is going to close. And we are so close right now, we got to kick it in.”

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