Brandon Aiyuk is the latest foundational homegrown 49ers player in line for a second contract with the team, and the possibility of one has long been a talking point. General manager John Lynch has offered a range of responses when asked about the subject previously, but he offered a notably firm response at the Combine.
Aiyuk has proven himself to be one of the league’s top young receivers over the past two seasons in particular. He enjoyed a career year in 2023, continuing to serve as a major factor in San Francisco’s passing attack while helping lead the team to the Super Bowl. The 25-year-old is on the books for $14.1MM in 2024 due to the 49ers’ decision to pick up his fifth-year option, but a multi-year deal is an obvious priority for the organization.
“He’s served us very well as a franchise, and I think we’ve got a nice track record of extending the players that are important to us,” Lynch said of Aiyuk when speaking at the Combine (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle). “Brandon is someone we want to keep around for a long time.”
Those remarks contrast to a degree with Lynch’s previous stance on the subject. The veteran executive noted the 49ers “can’t just be reckless” with their cap situation and the complications a new Aiyuk deal would create. San Francisco has fellow offensive stalwarts Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel under contract for multiple years, and Nick Bosa‘s historic extension will lead to major spikes in his cap hits down the road. A new deal for quarterback Brock Purdy (as early as next offseason) will of course include a major raise compared to his rookie pact.
Entering his age-26 season, Aiyuk will be able to command a new contract near the top of the receiver market; as such, he could join the list of 14 wideouts currently averaging at least $20MM per year. While retaining the Arizona State alum will therefore be a pricey endeavor, the 49ers are also interested in retaining fellow receiver Jauan Jennings. The latter is a pending restricted free agent, but Lynch noted it is his intention to keep him in place for at least 2024.
Jennings could be in line for the second-round RFA tender, which would cost $4.89MM and yield second-round compensation if he departed via an offer sheet. San Francisco could tender him at the original-round level ($3.12MM), but in that case an unmatched offer sheet would lead to only a seventh-rounder as compensation. Lynch noted a multi-year deal could be on the table, though, which would avoid the possibility of Jennings departing and ensure his place as a complimentary member of the offense for years to come.
Like all teams, the 49ers find themselves with added flexibility in 2024 thanks to the salary cap increase. The cap ceiling is set at $255.4MM, a much higher figure than teams were originally anticipating. That could make new deals for Aiyuk and Jennings more manageable in the short term, although they will still be expensive propositions in the former’s case in particular. It will be interesting to see how much urgency the 49ers proceed with on the extension front in the near future.