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49ers OTAs: Ricky Pearsall could benefit from Brandon Aiyuk’s absence

May 20, 2024 at 3:33 PM

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While the San Francisco 49ers reported for organized team activities (OTAs) today, reporters won't get a glimpse of practice until tomorrow. That is the first and only session this week open to the media. Everyone will be on the lookout for wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who isn't required to report as this phase of the offseason remains voluntary.

Aiyuk and the 49ers are still negotiating a contract extension, but reports over the weekend indicate that the two sides remain far apart.

"I'm told the 49ers certainly are open to doing a deal, but talks have not progressed enough where things are close," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler stated. "And so, is he going to show up for their workouts? Hard to tell right now. The market is pretty set for him. Amon-Ra St. Brown in Detroit did that deal recently, about $28 million a year. So, that's something for Aiyuk and the 49ers to work off of, but I'm told they're not quite there yet."

RELATED 49ers and Aiyuk reportedly not close on a new contract

Regardless of Aiyuk's attendance at OTAs, it's doubtful the star receiver will join his teammates on the practice field before signing a new deal. While no live contact is allowed over the next four weeks, teams can finally conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

There's no reason for Aiyuk to risk his health before reaching an agreement, and the 49ers wouldn't expect him to do so.

One player who could benefit greatly from the absence of the team's leading receiver is the 49ers' first-round pick, Ricky Pearsall. While he may initially be seen as the fourth player on the depth chart at the position, Aiyuk's non-participation in on-field drills will provide more reps for the rookie. This gives Pearsall a chance to start building rapport with quarterback Brock Purdy.

Pearsall has been diligent, studying his playbook, and now has the opportunity to prove to his new quarterback that he can be a reliable target. Pro Football Focus credited Pearsall with only two drops in his 87 targets last season and just six total drops in his five collegiate seasons.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan praised Pearsall's physicality and effort after the 49ers made the receiver the No. 31 overall pick, saying, "There's not one play that you see him turn something down. He's going to go over the middle and do everything he can to catch that ball and not worry about anything else. When he is on the sidelines, he's not taking the easy way out. He makes guys tackle him. He is not looking for a place to fall. And when he doesn't have the ball, he plays just as hard when the ball's not in his hands."

Of course, some of that physicality may only be apparent once contact is allowed. Until then, Pearsall has an opportunity to show he can be a playmaker within Shanahan's offense.

As for Aiyuk, the next significant checkpoint regarding his contract status may be in early June when the 49ers are slated to hold a mandatory minicamp, their final on-field work before the team breaks until training camp in late July. However, even that might not provide clarity. Neither Deebo Samuel nor Nick Bosa participated in mandatory minicamp practices during their respective contract negotiations. Although, both were present, observing from the sidelines.

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