How Contract Talks Between Brandon Aiyuk and the 49ers Will Play Out

A contract extension is increasingly unlikely as both sides dig in.
Oct 1, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

Brandon Aiyuk is signaling that the 49ers refuse to meet his asking price and have told him they don’t want him back. If that’s true, now what?

From Day 1, Aiyuk has wanted what Detroit paid Amon-Ra St. Brown plus a little extra. His thinking is he’s better than St. Brown and should be paid accordingly.

The St. Brown deal was $24 million per guaranteed with a spike in the final year for a total deal with incentives averaging $30 million per year at 4 years $120 million. The Niners are reportedly offering a contract averaging $26 million per season with incentives, $4 million per year less than St. Brown.

The Niners are apparently offering a lower deal citing usage. I’d imagine Aiyuk would say that’s outside of his control and he deserves more targets anyway.

Contract negotiations

Aiyuk’s statement would indicate contract talks are over. The Niners need to return to the table if only to feed the perception of ongoing talks to gain some leverage in trade discussions. Otherwise, teams will make predatory lowball offers.

I would expect that the Niners will make a final offer as camp approaches, and also expect that Aiyuk won’t budge an inch. He wants what he perceives as his market value and won’t accept a penny less.

Given those circumstances, both sides reaching a deal seems remote.

Trade talks

The key figure here is John Lynch, who digs in for his asking price or else in trade talks and gets dial tone on his proposals for Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jimmy Garoppolo. If Lynch holds true to form a trade is nearly impossible. The chances of a team offering a first-round pick for Aiyuk are microscopic.

If a trade is to happen, Lynch must be willing to bend. Will he? His recent history says not a chance.

The trades that have been floated by national media aren’t that realistic. The best I’ve heard is 49ers content creator Jessie Naylor suggesting Aiyuk to Baltimore for tight end Isaiah Likely and a pick. Alas Baltimore won’t, after adding Derrick Henry they will be counting on Likely in 12 personnel sets to free Henry.

Any other trades? Pittsburgh has made clear they want Aiyuk, but Darnell Washington and a pick won’t move Lynch.  The Pittsburgh media reports all indicate the Steelers think they can leverage the contract talks to get Aiyuk on the cheap. That won’t happen with Lynch. He dug in on his asking price for Garoppolo to the detriment of the team. He’s not giving in on Aiyuk.

Indianapolis was interested in Aiyuk but drafted Adonai Mitchell.

Who else in the AFC?

The Chargers have a clear need at receiver but nothing available to trade. Joey Bosa on a one-year rental would not sell Lynch. Las Vegas could work, Aiyuk for Michael Mayer and a pick, but the Raiders won’t do business with the Niners. Fans will say Aiyuk to Denver for Patrick Surtain but I don’t see the Broncos doing that.

The best AFC deal I can come up with is Aiyuk to Cleveland for cornerback Greg Newsome and a pick if the contracts can be worked out.

In the NFC after taking out the contenders and division teams there’s not much left. Washington has $45 million in cap room to take on Aiyuk’s contract and Jayden Daniels played with Aiyuk at Arizona State.

The Niners would ask for defensive tackle Daron Payne but I don’t see Adam Peters agreeing to that, particularly with Jer’Zhan Newton coming off foot surgery. A deal with Washington would likely have to be a package of picks.

The trade options are limited, Newsome or a group of picks from Washington seem to be the best potential offers. Maybe Lynch accepts one as the best option at a bad time to deal, but history predicts he'll hang on to Aiyuk.

The likely outcome

Aiyuk digs in, the Niners dig in, and Lynch rejects all trades. The Niners roll over Aiyuk’s deal to the 5th year option and Aiyuk opens the year by holding out. This has been my prediction throughout since it’s the default outcome when nothing happens in contract or trade talks.

The key to beating the Jets in the opener is the running game, so I’d look for Jauan Jennings outside and Ricky Pearsall in the slot. Minnesota next, WR shouldn’t matter. If Aiyuk holds out for game 3 that’s the Rams in LA and Aiyuk would be needed.

Lots of drama ahead.


Published |Modified
Tom Jensen

TOM JENSEN

Tom Jensen covered the San Francisco 49ers from 1985-87 for KUBA-AM in Yuba City, part of the team’s radio network. He won two awards from UPI for live news reporting. Tom attended 49ers home games and camp in Rocklin. He grew up a Niners fan starting in 1970, the final year at Kezar. Tom also covered the Kings when they first arrived in Sacramento, and served as an online columnist writing on the Los Angeles Lakers for bskball.com. He grew up in the East Bay, went to San Diego State undergrad, a classmate of Tony Gwynn, covering him in baseball and as the team’s point guard in basketball. Tom has an MBA from UC Irvine with additional grad coursework at UCLA. He's writing his first science fiction novel, has collaborated on a few screenplays, and runs his own global jazz/R&B website at vibrationsoftheworld.com. Tom lives in Seattle and hopes to move to Tracktown (Eugene, OR) in the spring.