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Projecting What 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk’s Next Contract Might Look Like

May 28, 2024 at 7:15 AM

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San Francisco wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is reportedly seeking a contract extension comparable to the new deal signed by Detroit Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. The details of St. Brown's new contract were recently made public, providing a clue regarding the structure of Aiyuk's next contract.

St. Brown was entering the last year of his rookie contract. The Lions extended that contract for four years, making it a five-year deal with the signing bonus spread over five years.

St. Brown's new contract was announced as a $120 million extension that included $77 million in guaranteed money, making him the second-highest-paid wide receiver in average annual salary. However, that average is misleading because it includes $36.01 million in non-guaranteed money in the fifth and final year of the contract. More realistically, St. Brown's extension is worth $28 million annually through three years.

St. Brown received $35.276 million, which was fully guaranteed at signing. His 2024 base salary is a very cap-friendly $1.366 million, and the cap hit is a very accommodating $4.86 million.

St. Brown is one of three players to collect 90-plus receptions in his first three NFL seasons. Last year, he finished third in receiving yards. Aiyuk was seventh but was targeted 59 fewer times than St. Brown.

The 49ers have fully guaranteed Aiyuk $14.124 million in 2024 on a fifth-year option.

Aiyuk could play out his current contract and become a free agent next year. But with no future guarantees, that would be a risky proposition. Likewise, the Niners could elect to franchise Aiyuk in 2025 and the following two years. But that, too, seems unlikely because the team already has Deebo Samuel and first-round pick Ricky Pearsall under contract. Most importantly, it must free cap space to re-sign Brock Purdy to a mega deal starting in 2025.

The team and player would reportedly like to find common ground on a multi-year deal. The parameters outlined in St. Brown's contract and those of three other recently signed, top-tier receivers give us a sense of what a new, say, five-year contract for Aiyuk might look like.

Michael Pittman Jr., Mike Evans, and Calvin Ridley received essentially two-year extensions this offseason. St. Brown's contract has outs after two years. His performance will dictate whether he gets to the third and fourth years. Pittman Jr., Ridley, and St. Brown could all be traded, cut, or have their contracts renegotiated after the two years are up.

The 49ers would owe Aiyuk $62.024 million if they played him under the fifth-year option guarantee and then franchised him the following two years. Meanwhile, the Lions owe St. Brown $68.8 million over the next three years.

The simple truth is that Aiyuk lacks the leverage to get paid much more than St. Brown. However, there is a way for Aiyuk to get paid more upfront money than St. Brown if the Niners were to drop Aiyuk's 2024 base salary to the league minimum of $1.17 million and convert the remaining $12.954 million he is currently owed into a signing bonus.

St. Brown is getting $28 million in average annual salary for the next three years. That is a reasonable target for Aiyuk to pursue. The 49er wideout's best play might be to seek more guaranteed money in year three than St. Brown.

Aiyuk is seeking upper-echelon money, which he has earned. Surprisingly, there is a path forward that allows the 49ers to compensate Aiyuk as one of the league's top receivers and reduce his current 2024 cap hit.
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