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Sauce Gardner says Brandon Aiyuk is underutilized by 49ers

Feb 20, 2024 at 1:05 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has the respect of Sauce Gardner. The New York Jets' All-Pro cornerback, responding to a take by FS1 analyst Emmanuel Acho, praised Aiyuk, suggesting the veteran player is one of the best receivers in the game.

Acho criticized Aiyuk following complaints from the receiver's inner circle about his limited opportunities during the postseason, during which Aiyuk managed just nine receptions across three playoff games.

While Acho respects Aiyuk, he argued that the primary focus of the 49ers' offense is running back Christian McCaffrey, which may limit opportunities for other playmakers. He pointed out that complaints about Aiyuk's involvement emerged only after the team's Super Bowl loss, suggesting a correlation with on-field success. After all, those criticisms weren't there after the 49ers' playoff victories, despite the receiver earning only three catches in each contest.

Gardner took to social media to voice his support for Aiyuk, stating, "Aiyuk is one WR I see who gets open the majority of the game but don't get thrown the ball. And he can win in contested situations so even if he's not wide open, he should get the opportunity to make a play on the ball instead of throwing it away."

Some have suggested that Aiyuk is unhappy with his current situation and could be an offseason trade candidate. Last week, when asked if he hopes to remain with the 49ers, the receiver remained non-committal, stating, "If that's the right move, yeah."

Aiyuk is entering his fifth NFL season and is signed through the upcoming season since the 49ers exercised the player's fifth-year option. Both sides would likely prefer to get a long-term deal done, but salary cap constraints may complicate that.

General manager John Lynch was asked about Aiyuk's future during last week's end-of-season press conference.

"Brandon's been a fantastic player for us," Lynch said. "Kyle calls him a warrior all the time because of the way he goes out and competes, and that shines through ... Whether you're a trained eye or whether you're a fan, you can see the passion he plays with. You can see the production that he's had.

"We're extremely prideful in what he's become, and he should be as well. And so your team is comprised of guys, veterans who've been paid very well, of guys who want to be paid very well. We got one guy on our team (QB Brock Purdy) who is pretty prominent, who can't be paid very well right now because the CBA doesn't allow [it]. So it's all one big puzzle."

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