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Insider weighs in: What if the 49ers don’t sign Brandon Aiyuk?

Jun 4, 2024 at 9:36 AM

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NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco joined Bay Area radio station KNBR on Monday to discuss the Brandon Aiyuk situation. The San Francisco 49ers are still negotiating a contract extension with their star wide receiver. Meanwhile, the price seemingly continues to rise as the offseason progresses.

The Minnesota Vikings shocked the NFL world this week by signing their star wide receiver, Justin Jefferson, to a market-shattering four-year, $140 million contract extension, averaging $35 million annually.

Maiocco is among those who don't believe Aiyuk will earn that kind of money. However, he can see the 49ers' receiver commanding $28-30 million annually, similar to Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins or Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions.

Maiocco also sees another possibility that 49ers fans probably don't want to imagine.

"And then, what the 49ers have to decide, and maybe they haven't even determined this yet—how high will they go?" Maiocco told Tom Tolbert and Adam Copeland. "And is there a point where, after drafting Ricky Pearsall, after signing Jauan Jennings to a two-year deal, still having Deebo Samuel for two more years, is there a price where they just say, 'This is too much,' and you let him play the final year of his contract."

That final year of his contract is a team-exercised fifth-year option slated to pay Aiyuk $14.124 million, a relative bargain compared to some of the new average salaries that have emerged this offseason. San Francisco also has some leverage in using the franchise tag on the receiver after that.

Had the 49ers been more aggressive in their negotiations and signed Aiyuk earlier rather than drawing out the process, as they typically do, they might have saved significant money throughout the life of a deal.

"So it does feel to me that, at some point, the wide receiver market is just so out of whack that it doesn't really make sense from the standpoint of keeping your entire team together," Maiocco continued. "So that's something that I'm sure the 49ers are weighing and have weighed throughout this process of, is that money better spent being spread around to other spots and keeping the rest of the team together and maybe having a little bit more of a revolving door at the wide receiver position?"

Regarding potentially trading Aiyuk at this point, Maiocco believes "that ship has sailed." If it didn't happen before or during the draft, when the 49ers could find some immediate help to mitigate the loss of a player like Aiyuk, it won't happen now.

"I don't know if I'd call it worst case scenario, but it's certainly an option for the 49ers to hold onto Aiyuk, have him play this final year of the contract, and then franchise him," Maiocco said. "And then if you still can't get a contract done, then you trade him before next year's draft, similar to what the Chiefs did with [CB] L'Jarius Sneed. You put that tag on him so you control his rights to a degree, and then you're still able to get something for him."

With over $25 million in salary cap space, San Francisco is financially capable of carrying its current wide receiver group into the 2024 season. Beyond that, some difficult decisions might be required.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Maiocco below.

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