Brandon Aiyuk

How Jefferson's record deal impacts 49ers' negotiations with Aiyuk

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On Monday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson agreed to a four-year $140 million contract extension, including $110 million in guaranteed money, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL and resetting the pay scale for the NFL's wide receiver market.

Meanwhile, there has been no news in Santa Clara regarding wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s pending extension with the 49ers, but Jefferson’s new deal could help push things forward. With the ceiling now set for receiver salaries, Aiyuk’s representation and the club should have a better understanding of where quarterback Brock Purdy’s No. 1 target’s compensation should range.

Aiyuk and Jefferson have been connected since they both were selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft — Aiyuk at No. 25 and Jefferson at No. 22. While they both have had successful starts to their professional careers, the LSU product has been in a category of his own.

Jefferson is only the fifth player in NFL history to record 1,000 yards receiving or more in his first four seasons, joining former New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans, former Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green and Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Aiyuk posted 1,000-plus-yard performances in each of his last two seasons — 1,015 in 2022 and 1,342 in 2023. The Arizona State product’s fourth season also included a second-best 17.9 yards per reception during the 49ers run to a Super Bowl LVIII appearance

Aiyuk also was voted NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his eight-reception, 129-yard and two-touchdown performance in the Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, helping him earn second-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his professional career.

Jefferson, however, is more highly decorated, which led to his record-breaking payday. The Vikings wideout is a three-time Pro Bowler, 2022 first-team All-Pro, Offensive Rookie of the Year (2020) and Offensive Player of the Year in 2022.

His 128 receptions for 1,809 yards led the league in 2022 along with his 106.4 yards per game and 13.9 average yards per touch. Aiyuk’s 83.9 yards per game ranked him ninth among pass-catchers in 2023 while his 17.9 yards per catch was ranked second behind Pittsburgh Steelers' George Pickens (18.1).

While Aiyuk is set to receive the biggest payday of his career, it will not quite be at the $35-million-per-year average salary that Jefferson is set to make, and the 49ers still have an interesting task ahead in determining an acceptable compensation package for their top wide receiver.

Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill and Oakland Raiders' Davante Adams previously had the heftiest paydays for the position with what appeared to be $30-million and $28-million average annual salaries on paper, but balloon payments at the end of said agreements where teams often can opt out, muddy the actual value of the deals.

Hill's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, already has made statements hinting at a desire to rework his client's contract with the Dolphins after seeing the Jefferson agreement. 

For now, Aiyuk still is under contract with the 49ers through the 2024 season and the club does have the ability to use the franchise tag for the following year if needed. Reaching a long-term extension, however, is a priority, and a yearly salary in the range of $27-28 million seems likely.

The waiting will continue, at least a little longer, as the club convenes on Tuesday for a two-day veteran mandatory minicamp before the summer break.

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