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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Deebo Samuel and Brock Purdy are why the 49ers can afford to pay Brandon Aiyuk

Apr 10, 2024 at 10:09 AM

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It's evident that the San Francisco 49ers engaged in long-term financial planning. Much discussion has centered around the feasibility of the team committing significant financial resources to two wide receivers, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Some skeptics question the wisdom of such heavy investment in a single position, especially considering that the 49ers handed Samuel a substantial three-year extension merely two years ago.

Adding complexity to this debate is the impending contract extension for quarterback Brock Purdy, positioning him to become the highest-paid player on the team. He will likely even become one of the NFL's highest-paid players. Where he ranks in average salary will depend upon whether he can replicate the stellar performance of his Pro Bowl 2023 campaign.

However, that deal for Samuel and Purdy's contract status may pave the way for the 49ers to accommodate Aiyuk's contract demands. Aiyuk is currently slated to count $14.124 million against the salary cap in 2024, his salary due on the team-exercised fifth-year option. A contract extension won't necessarily increase that figure. Instead, it will likely reduce it by paying the receiver a lower base salary this year and dispersing his signing bonus through the contract's duration—or further through void years.

With Purdy set to earn around $1 million in the third year of his rookie deal and an estimated $18 million in salary-cap savings hitting the books in June thanks to the release of defensive tackle Arik Armstead, the 49ers are in a favorable financial position this year. Moreover, any surplus in salary-cap space for 2024 can be carried over into the following year.

Looking ahead, Samuel's contract is set to expire in 2025. The 49ers even have a potential out after the upcoming season if they don't want to absorb the $24.2 million salary cap hit next year and prefer to take on $15.14 million in dead money. Either way, the 49ers won't start to feel the impact of Aiyuk's potential deal until next year, and the team has options with Samuel.

Even with a new deal, Purdy's impending contract will remain relatively cost-effective in 2025, with the primary impact stemming from the signing bonus. Although substantial, this impact can be spread out over the contract's duration or beyond. The effect of Purdy's deal will likely start to be felt in 2026, after Samuel's contract has expired.

Other contracts, such as tackle Trent Williams', will continue to balloon in the coming years, but so will the salary cap. The possibility of extending Samuel remains open, but Aiyuk is seen as the better overall player, one who has been available for at least 16 games in each of the last three seasons. It's more likely that San Francisco will try to identify a Samuel replacement in the coming years.

ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller recently emphasized why Aiyuk is a better option for the 49ers than Samuel, saying, "[A]s 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, why are there concerns about the 49ers' ability to afford two top-dollar receivers simultaneously? Financially, it appears feasible. It could be a matter of perspective, with many high-value contracts already on the books.

Alternatively, one could view the 49ers' approach as a testament to their commitment to rewarding key players while maintaining a competitive roster. Over the past four years, tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, and defensive end Nick Bosa have all received contract extensions under the team's current regime.

During discussions at the NFL Scouting Combine, general manager John Lynch expressed admiration for Aiyuk, affirming, "And I think we've got a nice track record of extending the players that are important to us, and Brandon's a guy we want to keep around for a long time."
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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