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Insider predicts 49ers’ strategy with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel

May 23, 2024 at 11:12 AM

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Not long ago, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated suggested that the San Francisco 49ers might part ways with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Since then, much has changed. The 2024 NFL Draft has come and gone, with both Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel still on the roster despite rampant trade rumors before and during the draft.

Last season, Aiyuk led the 49ers with 1,342 receiving yards, 322 more than the next leading target, tight end George Kittle. It was the second consecutive season that saw Aiyuk surpass the 1,000-receiving-yard mark. The two sides are now working on a contract extension to keep the talented young wideout in red and gold for the foreseeable future.

"I see the San Francisco 49ers making a strong effort to get Brandon Aiyuk signed, and I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, they break through and an extension gets done," Breer wrote, responding to a fan question in a recent mailbag for Sports Illustrated. "This, of course, is a bit of a pivot from my position of six months or so ago, when I saw Aiyuk as the logical odd man out to alleviate the Niners' bottleneck of big salaries."

That doesn't mean Breer has completely changed his stance on the 49ers' wide receiver group. If Aiyuk stays, someone else will likely be the odd man out. This probably won't happen before the upcoming season, as the 49ers can comfortably fit all their star players within this year's salary cap.

Next year may be a different story.

"What I'd change now about the take, though, is which guy is most likely to be moved," Breer continued. "I now get the feeling San Francisco might just choose to keep Aiyuk (and George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey) over Deebo Samuel. Samuel's a great player, but he's not a true No. 1 receiver who can consistently win in man coverage, like Aiyuk is, and I think that'd make him a little more of a luxury than a necessity given the embarrassment of riches the Niners have."

Breer adds that the 49ers would benefit from getting a deal done sooner rather than later, or they could find the situation further complicated by any new deal that Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson might receive. Breer has already suggested that Jefferson's contract extension might have outlandish terms, potentially reaching the $90-$100 million range over three years.

"And, of course, if he signs before CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins, you can expect the price tag on those guys to rise a bunch, too," Breer noted.
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