49ers, Brandon Aiyuk at Tricky Stage In Contract Negotiation

San Francisco’s offer hasn’t been good enough, but the two sides are still trying to get a deal done. Plus more on Trevor Lawrence’s extension and Kyler Murray’s offseason.
The 49ers and Aiyuk are trying to negotiate a contract extension.
The 49ers and Aiyuk are trying to negotiate a contract extension. / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

And we’re on to training camp (in a month) …

• There’s a lot of noise out there (most of it uninformed) about the San Francisco 49ers’ position on receiver Brandon Aiyuk, and the possibility that things are devolving to the point where the second-team All-Pro could be traded.

I wouldn’t listen to that. Not, yet, at least.

Last week, my buddy Mike Silver reported that the Niners are offering around $26 million per year, which, understandably, isn’t quite good enough, but does reflect how badly San Francisco wants to lock him in as the team’s long-term No. 1 receiver. It’s short of where Jaylen Waddle and Amon-Ra St. Brown are (around $28 million APY) and, of course, a far cry from Justin Jefferson territory.

But it’s close enough to the first two guys to think there’s a deal to be done. One key, from a metrics standpoint, is that both Waddle and St. Brown had around $60 million in new money within the first two new years—which means they added that amount of money to what existed for giving the team that term on the contract. In the case of Aiyuk, with $14.124 million locked in for this year, that’d mean $75 million over the first three years of a new contract, folding that fifth-year option in.

The question from there would be what sort of tax Aiyuk is looking to land for waiting on Jefferson’s deal to get done. And that can get tricky—especially if he sees himself, after two Pro Bowl–level seasons and 75/1,342/7 last year, as being in that category. Waddle’s composite over the past two years is close to Aiyuk’s, for what it’s worth, and neither are in Jefferson’s statistical neighborhood.

Of course, if he wants what Jefferson got ($35 million APY, $110 million guaranteed), we’re talking about something else entirely.

• Quarterbacks are different, of course, and there’s one metric in Trevor Lawrence’s contract that’s indicative of that.

He’s due $170 million over the next three years. He was due, on his old contract, $31.3 million over the next two years. That means for the first extra year of term, Lawrence is getting nearly $139 million. It reflects the commitment the team is making, first and foremost, and also how one deal can impact the next.

One difference in the situations involving Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love and Dak Prescott (the three big looming quarterback contract negotiations coming down the pike this summer) is that each of those guys only has a year left on their deal. Which makes it more difficult to manage the numbers for a team, and can also make a player more resolute in his position, since he waited an extra year to go to the table.

• One leftover from our story on the Jets on Monday that I thought was interesting—Robert Saleh found real value in the team’s stakes-less (don’t call it meaningless!) season finale in Foxborough.

It was snowing sideways that day. Both teams could actually benefit from losing (winning actually might’ve cost the Patriots Drake Maye because the Arizona Cardinals would’ve had a real market for the third pick). And each team had been through a mess of a season, making this the proverbial golf-clubs-in-the-locker-and-eyeing-the-exits kind of final week. If anything, the Patriots would’ve had the motivational edge in it being Bill Belichick’s sendoff.

Instead, the Jets bullied New England, with Breece Hall dancing through the snow to 178 rushing yards on 37 carries in a 17–3 New York win. To Saleh, at least, it showed the mental strength of a group that had endured plenty.

“It’s the truth,” Saleh says. “I forget what New England’s win streak [over the Jets] was at the time. I think it was like 17 games or whatever the heck it was. [It was 15.] New England had that big win streak on us, and we kind of had an idea that it was going to be their last game as a regime. Our guys attacked it. Playing in a snowstorm to grind out the amount of rushing yards we did against a really, really good run defense and play the type of game that we played defensively and special teams, it was a great way to finish.”

And set the stage for a really productive offseason.

Former New York Jets safety and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead
Whitehead returned to the Buccaneers on a two-year deal. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

• Underrated reunion of the offseason: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jordan Whitehead.

The 27-year-old returned to the Bucs on a two-year deal, and the entire team was ecstatic to have one of the locker-room cornerstones of all those contending teams back in the fold, and it showed over the course of the spring. And that especially goes for newly paid All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who’s very close to Whitehead and shares tremendous on-field chemistry with the guy he started next to his first two years in the pros.

• One takeaway for me from the NBA Finals is the role Brad Stevens played in the Boston Celtics’ return to the biggest stages in basketball over the past few years. He was the head coach from 2013 to ’21 and, then, saying the team needed a new voice, moved to the front office with Danny Ainge’s departure, where he’s worked for the past three years.

Over that time, he’s led the charge on important acquisitions such as the trades for Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White.

Interestingly enough, former Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels was being considered for a hybrid front office-coaching role had Belichick landed with the Atlanta Falcons, and much of Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio’s background, before he led New England’s personnel department, was in coaching. Both Belichick and McDaniels have close relationships with Stevens, so it’s fair to guess that these sorts of moves, from coaching to personnel, have been discussion points between that particular group of guys.

And it does make me wonder whether there are more who could make that sort of move.

• If you want to know about the value of the offseason program for a quarterback, Kyler Murray would be a good guy to ask. He habitually would skip a heavy percentage of the Arizona Cardinals’ spring when he was younger, choosing instead to work out in Dallas. But over the past two years—coming back off the ACL tear last year and going into coach Jonathan Gannon’s second year this time around—he’s been present and locked in.

“I want to say it’s felt like one of the best offseasons I’ve had in a long time,” Murray told reporters. “Just being able to, one, be healthy, and then, two, be in touch with the guys and actually be a part of it.

“Obviously, last year, being on the side, working with [senior reconditioning coordinator] Buddy [Morris] every day, having to watch, having to be in meetings and not really being able to get a feel for anything, it just makes a difference. It makes a difference when I’m out there and we’re all getting better together, so not only on the field but off the field. It’s a good offseason.”

Something else that doesn’t hurt is collecting on the seven-figure offseason workout bonus he has built into the contract he signed two years ago (smart move, Cardinals).

• All the best to David Bakhtiari. Good guy. Great player. Here’s hoping he gets back on the field again. He told Adam Schefter that he wants to play another couple of years. Due to a litany of knee problems, the five-time All-Pro has played in just 13 games over the past three years, and last made it through a full season in 2019.

• As someone who hates a lot of new uniform looks, I will say that the Baltimore Ravens’ new look with the purple helmet is pretty sweet.

• Happy summer, everyone!

Albert Breer