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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Why CBS Sports named Brandon Aiyuk the 49ers’ most underappreciated player

Jul 4, 2024 at 11:38 AM

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Brandon Aiyuk has dominated San Francisco 49ers-related storylines this offseason as the star player seeks a contract extension that will make him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers. Given his consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, it's surprising to see Aiyuk listed among underappreciated players.

Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports recently identified undervalued stars for every NFC team, naming Aiyuk as the 49ers' most underappreciated player.

"Not only are these players performing at a high level, the value of their contracts significantly benefits the overall roster," Kerr noted.

Aiyuk has indeed outperformed his rookie contract, earning $12.5 million over his first four seasons. He is set to earn $14.124 million on a team-exercised fifth-year option—a bargain for a player of his caliber—but hopes a new deal will significantly increase his annual salary.

"The 49ers have not given Aiyuk a contract extension yet, but this should have been taken care of months ago," Kerr wrote. "Aiyuk proved in 2023 he's the best wide receiver on the 49ers after having the best season of his career."

Aiyuk led the 49ers with 1,342 receiving yards last season, the seventh-most in the NFL. Kerr notes that the 49ers wideout joined Jerry Rice as the only players in franchise history with seven or more games with 100 or more receiving yards in a season.

"He averaged 3.1 yards per route run in 2023, the third-best rate in the NFL behind Tyreek Hill and Nico Collins (minimum 400 routes)," Kerr continued. "Aiyuk was second in the league in yards per catch (17.9) and led the NFL in percentage of catches going for a first [down] or touchdown (81.3%).

"Aiyuk is the first player in 49ers' history with 55+ catches, 740+ yards, and 5+ touchdowns in each of his first four seasons. He's 11th in receiving yards (2,357), 16th in yards per catch (15.4), and tied for 11th in receiving touchdowns (15) over the last two seasons -- all while being the No. 2 wideout on a stacked 49ers roster."

Few would now consider Aiyuk the No. 2 wideout on the 49ers roster. Most believe the 26-year-old has become more valuable to the team than Deebo Samuel, who signed his own extension two years ago.

"Playing under the fifth-year option on his rookie deal at $14.124 million, Aiyuk is worth significantly more than what he'll make this season," Kerr added. "With the wide receiver market booming, Aiyuk deserves to get a hefty raise -- from the 49ers or someone else."

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