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49ers analysis: The pros and cons of a Brandon Aiyuk extension

Al Sacco
Apr 12, 2024 at 9:31 PM

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John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have made it clear that they want WR Brandon Aiyuk to be a part of the San Francisco 49ers for the foreseeable future. It appears Aiyuk also wants to get something done, but all indications are that he isn't willing to take a hometown discount and the likelihood of playing on the last year of his deal without a holdout or trade request is slim.

Simply put: Aiyuk wants to get paid.

It's hard to blame him. A player's time in the NFL can be short and it takes just one hit to end a career. So, whether it's with the Niners or another team, Aiyuk will squeeze every penny out of what will most likely be his most lucrative professional contract. But is spending that much on a receiver a wise move for the franchise?

There are a number of pros to keeping Aiyuk in the fold. For starters, he's an ascending player in the prime of his career. At 26-years old, any extension would likely run through his peak years. Plus, if last season was any indication, we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Aiyuk's capable of.

In 2024 the fourth year wide out had his best season, gaining 1,342 yards with 75 catches. He was second in the NFL with 17.9 yards per reception and posted career bests in catch percentage (71.4%) and yards per target (12.8). His 124.0 rating when targeted was in the top 10 and he earned a second-team All Pro selection. Aiyuk is also an effective and willing blocker which is essential in a Shanahan offense.

Another factor in keeping Aiyuk around is QB Brock Purdy. It seems as if the Niners have every intention of paying huge dollars to ensure Purdy is their franchise quarterback and it makes little sense to take away his favorite target. Aiyuk's exceptional route running is a seamless fit with Purdy's timing throws and the two of them showed tremendous chemistry throughout 2023.

Then there's the next window. What does that mean? TE George Kittle will be 31-years old. WR Deebo Samuel and WR Jauan Jennings could each be heading into their final season as 49ers. As San Francisco transitions to building around Purdy, if Aiyuk isn't in part of the core group on offense in 2025 and beyond then who will be?

So, with all of that said, what could possibly be the cons of extending Aiyuk?

Wide receiver contracts are exploding and Aiyuk will want upwards of $25-$30 million per year and $50-$60 million in guarantees. Are the 49ers willing to spend that on a position that isn't necessarily the focal point of the offense? Consider that the Niners threw the ball just 491 times in 2023. That total was the fewest in the NFL.

As efficient as Aiyuk was, he still ranked 36th in targets with 105. That's 76 less targets the Ceedee Lamb, who led the league with 181. To put that in perspective, the difference in targets between the two was more than Aiyuk's reception total.

The amount of quality receivers that are coming into the league year in and year out could also factor into the decision and the 2024 NFL Draft is expected to be incredibly deep at the position. Is it worth it to pay out huge dollars when you might be able to get similar volume and production for cheaper? Does Shanahan have his eye on one or two prospects that could learn with Samuel and Kittle still in the fold before playing larger roles down the line?

A huge contract to Aiyuk may also mean saying goodbye to other core pieces. LB Dre Greenlaw, S Talanoa Hufanga, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Deommodore Lenoir, G Aaron Banks, and Jennings are just some of the 49ers set to be free agents in 2025. If LT Trent Williams retires the team may have to look to sign or trade for someone to replace him. Do they value quantity instead and would look at other alternatives at receiver?

In the end, the pros of keeping Aiyuk outweigh the cons, but this will come down to one thing: Money. The 49ers have their price and so does Aiyuk. How close they can get to a middle ground will ultimately decide where this goes.
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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