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ESPN analyst on Brandon Aiyuk: 49ers shouldn’t pay two receivers top dollar

Apr 9, 2024 at 3:30 PM

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ESPN analyst Matt Miller understands the perspective of San Francisco 49ers fans. After all, he has been a fan of the team since he was a kid. Seeing any of your favorite players leave and put on another uniform is tough.

It's also difficult to pay everyone, and Miller knows that. It's not a formula for successful roster building, including paying two wide receivers top dollar.

The 49ers are trying to negotiate a contract extension with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The team invested heavily in another receiver, Deebo Samuel, just two years ago. Is allowing each of them to consume a significant chunk of the salary cap feasible for a team that hopes to continue being competitive and win Super Bowls?

"I have to separate the fan part of my brain, who doesn't want to see him (Aiyuk) leave, from the team-building part of my brain, the analytical part," Miller told Al Sacco on the 49ers Webzone "No Huddle" podcast. "I wouldn't pay him. I wouldn't.

"Now, I will say this: I would have paid Aiyuk before I paid Deebo. And I understand, at the time, that would have been a hot take. But as much as I love Deebo, he's been banged up since college. It's just his play style. He takes a lot of punishment. So at the time, I thought Aiyuk was a better long-term play just because of play style."

Miller notes that the 49ers seemingly made their choice in 2022. While he would hate to see either player with another team, it's difficult to imagine San Francisco investing that much money into just two players.

"If you had a year one rookie quarterback, you could afford to do it and make it work," Miller added. "I think it gets a little bit harder now that Brock [Purdy] has some years under his belt. You're going to have to pay him, and you're trying to forecast that out."

Several 49ers players, including defensive end Nick Bosa and running back Christian McCaffrey, are already earning the most money at their positions. Trent Williams is among the top-paid offensive linemen in the NFL.

"It's like, something's got to give," Miller said. "And I think wide receiver is one of those positions where you can get immediate impact from a rookie. There's guys, first round, second round, third round, who come in and are great players ... So I think that's where it would suck to see Brandon Aiyuk playing for another team, but you have to understand, that's how teams are built in this day and age.

"You get a young quarterback, and you support him. And when that young quarterback elevates, it's his turn to support the players around him. And that's where San Francisco's at in that timeline right now."
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