San Francisco 49ers and Brandon Aiyuk at Contract Impasse

The San Francisco 49ers are the betting favorites to win the NFC and return to the Super Bowl. They are paying +250 to repeat as conference champions. But they are in the midst of a contract dispute with star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, one month away from the opening of training camp.

This is the final year of Aiyuk’s rookie contract, and for him, the timing is perfect. He was fantastic in 2023, leading the 49ers with 1,342 receiving yards, his second consecutive season over 1,000 yards. The 25th overall pick in 2020 was second team All-Pro last season, and he has become quarterback Brock Purdy’s favorite target. He was the only player with the 49ers with more than 100 targets last season.

The timing also couldn’t be better for Aiyuk because of the recent explosion in wide receiver salaries. Last season, Tyreek Hill was the only wide receiver making $30 million per season, and only three wide receivers made more than $25 million. Now we have Justin Jefferson at $35 million per year, A.J. Brown at $32 million, and Amon-Ra St. Brown at $30.002 million. And $25 million has gone from the fourth-highest salary for a wide receiver to the eighth-best contract. DeVonta Smith is making $25 million per season.

All this is to say that Aiyuk is due a very big payday, and he will have one of these nine-figure contracts sooner, rather than later. And that has become the issue between him and the 49ers.

What Can San Francisco Afford?

Aiyuk was recently seen on Tiktok with his college teammate and new Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels saying, “[The 49ers] said they don’t want me back.”

Of course, that isn’t true. San Francisco general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan understand what they have in Aiyuk, and they definitely want him back. What they don’t want, however, is to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. They just gave a contract extension to Christian McCaffrey that makes him the league’s highest-paid running back, and before the end of 2025, they will have to pay quarterback Purdy.

Also working against Aiyuk is that fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s contract runs out after 2025, and defensive end Nick Bosa will have his cap hits begin to escalate. His cap hit in 2024 is $14.6 million. But by 2026, it jumps up to $42.02 million.

Offensive Player of the Year

Aiyuk was the best wide receiver for the 49ers last season, and he views himself among the top tier in the NFL. But where do oddsmakers see him?

Tyreek Hill is the preseason favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year at +700. Fellow wide receivers CeeDee Lamb (+900), Ja’Marr Chase (+1200), and Justin Jefferson (+1500) are all in the top-six. 

Way down the board is Aiyuk at +13000, the 31st highest-ranked wide receiver. Samuel is +5000, which is ninth among receivers. McCaffrey is second overall at +750, and Purdy is above Aiyuk, paying +7500. So as the oddsmakers see it, Aiyuk is the fourth-most important player on the 49ers offense. Add in future Hall of Fame tackle Trent Williams, and Aiyuk drops to fifth.

The 49ers want to keep him, but will his value match the required contract?

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