The NFL trade deadline has passed and with it the time for the 49ers rumors. At least for 2022. However, the look at 2024 looks different with the 49ers rumors.
And one player to keep an eye on may be 49ers star Brandon Aiyuk, who is in the midst of a stellar fourth season. But considering how talented the 49ers are in other areas of the field — and how much they pay for that talent — Aiyuk could very well play above San Francisco’s price range next season.
At least he’s playing into the rumors surrounding the 49ers. That is the view by ESPN insider Dan Graziano, who wrote this week that Aiyuk should be considered a “surprise candidate” for the 2024 NFL trade market. Aiyuk has one as a former first-round pick Fifth-year option worth $14.1 million a relative bargain for his skillset next season. But the 49ers’ previous editions are starting to show their maturity.
“The reason he’s listed here is because the 49ers are currently over or just over next year’s cap,” Graziano wrote, “and are already paying them a lot of money.” Deebo Samuel at the wide receiver position. And not to mention top dollar at tight end, left tackle, linebacker…basically everywhere except quarterback.”
In fact, the 49ers have a few of them highest paid players in the league, across the border. They have the highest-paid defensive player (Nick Bosa), the highest-paid offensive tackle (Trent Williams), the highest-paid tight end (George Kittle) and the highest-paid fullback (Kyle Juszczyk). Christian McCaffrey is No. 2 on the running back list, Fred Warner is No. 3 among inside linebackers, and Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave and Deebo Samuel are all in the top 11 in salary at their positions.
So paying Brandon Aiyuk won’t be easy.
Rumors are circulating about impending contracts from the 49ers
The 49ers’ situation will be complicated by free agency in 2024, as most of the defensive line — Javon Kinlaw, Chase Young and Clelin Ferrell — will be on the open market. To make matters worse, the market for star receivers is still unclear.
That’s all grist for the 49ers rumor mill, Graziano says, even before Brandon Aiyuk’s status is taken into account.
“Brandon Aiyuk will certainly be a candidate for an extension, but so will many people in San Francisco,” Graziano wrote. “And since none of the major wide receiver additions we expected last offseason were completed, it’s hard to predict what will happen to this market if something like this happens Justin Jefferson, Yes’Marr Chase, Michael Pittman Jr., T-shirt Higgins, et al. Get their offers.
“The Niners won’t be able to afford to keep everyone, which means Aiyuk could potentially be a trade candidate in the offseason if an extension doesn’t happen.”
Brandon Aiyuk is celebrating his Pro Bowl year
Are there any rumors about the 49ers? Brandon Aiyuk would be hard pills to swallow. He has improved in each of his four years with the 49ers and is on pace for a Pro Bowl season. He’s on pace for 1,317 yards receiving and 74 catches and is currently rated at 91.7 by Pro Football Focus, which is third among receivers.
But the 49ers are so stacked at every position that they may not be able to afford to keep him. Sure, the 49ers could re-sign Brandon Aiyuk next season at the fifth-year option salary of $14.1 million, but if there’s little chance they can pay him an extension beyond that, it might make sense, rumor has it about a trade from the 49ers.
49ers GM John Lynch spoke during the offseason about the team’s strong track record of keeping its stars in place and the hope they could do the same with Aiyuk.
“Brandon had a fantastic year with Brandon (Aiyuk).” Lynch said in February. “I really applaud Brandon. Kyle often calls him a warrior. We appreciate the way he plays, the way he has improved his game since he has been here and we will find out in due course.”
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter who covers the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has been writing for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of NBA reporting experience, including 17 years as a senior NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of seven nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley Were Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney