49ers Rebuffing Brandon Aiyuk Trade Inquiries

Taking the increasingly common step of unfollowing his team during a contract situation, Brandon Aiyuk has not requested a trade. But the 49ers’ situation complicates his future. And teams are looking into this situation.

Receiver-needy teams have reached out to the 49ers about Aiyuk’s potential availability over the past several months, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Thus far, per RapSheet (video link), San Francisco has rebuffed those efforts and is moving forward with Aiyuk on the roster. That said, John Lynch has acknowledged the challenges of this process at multiple points this offseason.

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The draft looms as the calendar’s second trade window of sorts and should be seen as one of the deadlines in this situation. The 49ers are in a good spot contractually for 2024, with Brock Purdy forced to stay on a rookie contract. By 2025, however, the team stands to have a much more complicated situation on its hands. As Purdy becomes extension-eligible, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey are signed to upper-crust or top-market (in McCaffrey’s case) extensions.

Kittle, McCaffrey and Samuel will be in contract years in 2025 as well. That sets up a difficult landscape for the 49ers, who have Aiyuk and Charvarius Ward contract years presently. Aiyuk, 25, led the 49ers in receiving — by a wide margin, with a career-high 1,342 — last year. With the DeVonta Smith contract (three years, $75MM, $51MM in practical guarantees) potentially settling in as the floor for an Aiyuk deal, the 49ers will need to determine their future with their talented wideout tandem.

Although extension talks have begun, the 49ers and Aiyuk — as of late March — were not close on terms. Like the Bengals and Tee Higgins, the 49ers keeping Aiyuk would provide a team on the championship doorstep — no team has ever been closer to a title without winning it than last year’s San Francisco edition — with a better chance of stepping over an elusive hurdle. But the 49ers also faced an eerily similar situation in the past. They responded to the DeForest BucknerArik Armstead situation, which came to a head just after their first Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs, by unloading the more expensive player for a first-round pick.

Indeed, GMs are monitoring this latest San Francisco contract quandary. One anonymous front office boss told the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora he expects the 49ers to move either Aiyuk or Samuel but noted “if Deebo was the guy to go, I think he’d already be gone.” This GM said he would be “shocked” if the 49ers do not move one of their receivers.

The team gave Jauan Jennings a second-round RFA tender in March, but losing Aiyuk would not exactly mean the former seventh-round pick steps into the WR2 role — even if the team is eyeing a Jennings extension. Given how close the 49ers have been over the past three years, the team would seemingly need to add a starter-caliber wideout in the event it did accept a trade offer for Aiyuk.

Multiple factors might keep a trade haul low, which would make 49ers tabling this matter to 2025 understandable. Aiyuk is in the final year of his rookie contract (a $14.12MM fifth-year option); a team needing to sign off on an extension north of where the Eagles went for Smith would naturally decrease the compensation coming back to San Francisco. This draft also features a deep receiver class, which could prompt teams to take their chances with a first- or second-round wideout that will be attached to a rookie contract into the late 2020s.

A tag-and-trade situation could conceivably come up for the 49ers next year, but it is clear teams are looking closely at this storyline ahead of the draft. The Jets and Lions made offers for Samuel during the 2022 draft; the 49ers held onto their versatile weapon and extended him later that summer. After four seasons with Samuel and Aiyuk together, will the 49ers unload the 2020 first-rounder and pivot to a cost-controlled replacement?

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