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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Sando shares take on 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk situation

Feb 22, 2024 at 4:04 PM--

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The NFL offseason often sparks speculation, and for the San Francisco 49ers, the focal point will likely be wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk's contract situation.

Aiyuk is under contract through the 2024 season, thanks to the team exercising the fifth-year option on the 25-year-old receiver. Ideally, both parties would prefer to secure a long-term deal before Aiyuk steps foot on the field again. Still, there's been considerable debate about how to accomplish this while maintaining a healthy salary cap in the long run.

Some have even speculated that the 49ers might need to entertain trading their star player, a scenario the team likely wishes to avoid.

Mike Sando of The Athletic recently joined Bay Area radio station KNBR, sharing his insights regarding the 49ers-Aiyuk situation and what the team might do. He admits that he finds it difficult to envision the Niners parting ways with Aiyuk.

"I think, shoot, down the stretch, he looked like the guy [who], if you had to pick one, you wouldn't want to get rid of him," Sando said on the "Papa and Lund" show. "I think, in these cap equations, you have to remember this: If the player's playing great, we can find a way to keep him.

"I think, most of the time, when we're talking about decisions for cap reasons, what we're talking about is the player's performance is no longer in line with the cap."

This certainly doesn't apply to Aiyuk, who led the team with 1,342 receiving yards, becoming only the fourth wideout in franchise history to achieve back-to-back seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards. The last player to accomplish this feat was tight end George Kittle in 2018 and 2019. The last wide receiver to do so was Anquan Boldin in 2013 and 2014.

While it's difficult to imagine the 49ers parting ways with such a productive player, some reference the 2020 trade of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner for salary cap reasons, which didn't work out well for the team.

San Francisco attempted to fill Buckner's void by drafting Javon Kinlaw, but he hasn't developed into the impact player the team anticipated. Last year, seemingly acknowledging the Buckner move as a misstep, the 49ers made a significant investment in signing Javon Hargrave.

"Now, I realize they did make the decision on Buckner, but I think that's almost a cautionary tale to not do it again," Sando continued. "It's really hard to get good players. When you have the good players, you find a way to make their cap work, especially when they're young players.

"So they may need to do some machinations in other ways. I just don't think getting rid of good young players at premium positions makes you better as a team."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Sando below.

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