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Schefter: 49ers and Brandon Aiyuk seemed close to deal before WR market exploded

Jun 21, 2024 at 11:15 AM

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Washington Commanders fans have been speculating about their favorite team trading for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk since before the draft. This chatter was further fueled by Aiyuk's recent conversation with Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels, where the wideout told his former Arizona State teammate, "They said they don't want me back ... I swear."

It turns out the Commanders were among multiple teams that inquired about Aiyuk this offseason.

"At one point prior to the draft, the Commanders and Niners had some discussions that never went anywhere about a potential trade, and the Niners wanted to hold onto him," ESPN's Adam Schefter told sports talk show host Pat McAfee. "And they still want to hold onto him, and they're not looking to deal him."

Despite fielding several calls from interested teams, the 49ers never received an offer enticing enough to part with Aiyuk. They decided to retain the talented wide receiver, who led the team last season with 1,342 receiving yards, and are working on negotiating a long-term deal for the fifth-year player. However, that has been more challenging than initially expected.

Aiyuk is set to earn $14.124 million in 2024 on a team-exercised fifth-year option. However, the wide receiver market has exploded, topped by Justin Jefferson's recent deal averaging $35 million annually. While no one expects Aiyuk to command that kind of contract, something approaching $30 million seems reasonable to most.

Schefter adds that the 49ers want Aiyuk back but not at the price he reportedly seeks.

"They've had contract talks throughout the offseason, and at one point, it seemed like they were closing in on a deal only to see the wide receiver market explode," Schefter stated. "... I think the number might have shifted in Brandon Aiyuk's mind. But the Niners have always wanted him back."

Once again, the 49ers' tendency to prolong their major contract negotiations has cost them money. The same situation occurred with Deebo Samuel in 2022, when the wide receiver market experienced a similar surge, driving up Samuel's cost.

"There have been conversations (about Aiyuk) at various points with other teams where they asked if he were available," Schefter continued. "The Niners never were serious about trading him, and they want him back. But the problem is they can't get a deal done right now, so Brandon Aiyuk is interpreting that as they don't want me anymore.

"No, they want him here. They just don't want him at the number that he wants to be there at, with what the wide receivers are going for in this day and age."

The downside for Aiyuk is that San Francisco holds significant leverage. In addition to the receiver being under contract for the upcoming season, the 49ers can utilize the franchise tag in 2025 and 2026 and still pay less over the next three years than what they have offered so far.

The 49ers' last offer to Aiyuk reportedly paid about $26 million annually, so the two sides remain at a standoff, with neither willing to budge at this point. That could change in the next month or so.

"At this time a couple of years ago, I do believe Deebo Samuel stated that he wanted to be traded, wasn't going to play in San Francisco again," Schefter said. "So you can do and say whatever you want at this time of the year. Let's see what happens when everybody's reporting to camp and training camp is underway."

The 49ers kick off training camp on July 23.

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