Brandon Aiyuk

Three possible outcomes from Aiyuk's 49ers contract standoff

NBC Universal, Inc.

Does it make sense for the 49ers to devote another $30 million annually (or somewhere in that neighborhood) to a wide receiver?

That is what San Francisco must determine as second-team All-Pro receiver Brandon Aiyuk skips the team’s mandatory minicamp to apply leverage toward landing a new contract in line with the top players at his position.

Aiyuk is under contract for the upcoming 2024 NFL season at a cost of $14.1 million. His next contract could reward him with average pay at a level twice that amount. That is why Aiyuk remained away from the 49ers’ offseason program, including the team’s mandatory minicamp, which opened Tuesday.

Aiyuk led the 49ers in receiving the past two seasons, totaling 153 receptions for 2,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is now considered one of the top receivers in the NFL.

But the 49ers already have Deebo Samuel. And, Samuel and Jauan Jennings are under contract for the next two seasons.

Moreover, first-round draft pick Ricky Pearsall will have a four-year deal with the club option for a fifth season.

The going rate for a wide receiver of Aiyuk’s status is pushing $30 million a season. But the 49ers must weigh if paying the price to retain Aiyuk on a long-term contract makes sense for them at this time.

Here are the 49ers’ three options for dealing with the Aiyuk situation:

1, Contract extension

The 49ers have entered into lucrative, long-term contract extensions with star players in each of the previous four years.

They worked out deals with tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner, Samuel and defensive end Nick Bosa. It is easy to assume that the same pattern will hold and Aiyuk will get his contract at some point right around the start of training camp or the regular season.

But that is certainly not a slam dunk.

What makes this a little more intriguing is that the 49ers have already paid Samuel, and general manager John Lynch must determine whether it makes sense to devote so much money to two receivers.

And . . . if the 49ers pay Aiyuk the going rate, does that mean they will not be able to retain Samuel past this season?

At some point, the 49ers will have to say good-bye to some of their top-paid players — or decline to pay others the market rate. That's especially true now with quarterback Brock Purdy due for a contract next offseason that could pay him in the $50-million-a-year range.

2, Play out the season

Again, Aiyuk is under contract for the upcoming season. If they do not touch his contract, he will be forced to play this season on his existing contract, which would pay him more than his previous four seasons combined.
But Aiyuk would be understandably upset that the 49ers declined to compensate him on the level of other receiver contracts around the NFL.

If Aiyuk plays this season on his current deal, the 49ers would then have the option of reassessing their position at the end of the season and trying to work out a long-term contract.

One option would be for the 49ers to place the franchise tag on Aiyuk to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. At that point, the 49ers will know if they will be able to work out a long-term contract.

If they don’t believe they can come to an agreement, they could trade him before the 2025 NFL Draft to a team that is willing to pay a steep price to the 49ers and satisfy Aiyuk’s contract demands.

3, Trade him now

There was trade chatter concerning Aiyuk this offseason. But Lynch stopped fielding calls about Aiyuk after the first day of the draft, when the 49ers selected Pearsall with the No. 31 overall selection.

Now, it does not make much sense for the 49ers to deal Aiyuk because there is nobody they would be able to add who could compensate for his absence this season.

The 49ers are a better team with Aiyuk, and they must charge ahead toward their goal of a Super Bowl title.

The NFL trading deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 5, or after the 49ers' eighth game.

If the team is going strong, they would not trade Aiyuk at that point. But if the season has fallen off the rails, perhaps the 49ers would be willing to deal him at that point.

Trading Aiyuk any time between now and the deadline this season would appear to be the least-likely of the 49ers’ options.

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast

Contact Us