The San Francisco 49ers have a roster built to contend at the highest level, but one insider is explaining why the team may have to trade wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Samuel has already experienced a trade saga while with San Francisco, but his contract could lead to another.
The 49ers have a “good” problem with talent on offense like Samuel, tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. They are all talented players, but working within cap space requirements is difficult when it comes time for top players to get paid.
ESPN writer Nick Wagoner recently explained that trading away Samuel is something San Francisco will have to consider. With Aiyuk on the way up, having two receivers making big money is difficult to pull off.
“You can’t rule it out guys, it is possible,” Wagoner said on KNBR. “It would have been very difficult to do this offseason… I think next year the conversation becomes more interesting. Aiyuk — really to me guys, and I’m not trying to take away too much from these OTAs — he’s probably been the best player on the field that we’ve seen. I think he’s in a position where he’s going to get a big contract. Now, next offseason if you do a contract with Aiyuk, theoretically you could structure it where his first year cap hit is pretty low, and you could keep both of them.”
That’s a big if, but there’s evidence to think that Aiyuk is on an upswing.
Aiyuk Excelling in OTAs After 2022 Season
For any first-round pick, the expectations are high. Aiyuk had the fortune of coming into a talented offense that didn’t demand that he produce at an elite level, but he’s starting to show he can.
After a respectable 1574 receiving yards over two seasons and 29 games, Aiyuk caught 78 passes for 1015 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2023 according to PFR. Cracking the 1000-yard mark isn’t necessarily elite, but it’s especially impressive considering the talent Aiyuk is splitting attention with.
Aiyuk taking another step to be a lethal downfield threat for San Francisco is exactly what head coach Kyle Shanahan will be looking for. Deebo is an explosive player, but isn’t a great long-ball option.
Having Aiyuk stretch the field even more, while Samuel takes advantage of space underneath, is a lethal combo on paper.
Super Bowl or Bust for 49ers?
One thing that could ease the financial waistband for the 49ers would be a Super Bowl ring. At least, that’s what Wagoner thinks could help.
San Francisco has played in three conference championships and a Super Bowl since Deebo arrived, but has yet to hoist the Lombardi Trophy under Shanahan. Finally doing so could persuade both the 49ers and Samuel to cut deals to keep the roster together.
“If Deebo goes out and plays great and they win a Super Bowl, then they probably try and figure out a way that they can extend that a little bit more,” Wagoner said. “Even if he doesn’t, you’ve gotten what you want out of the nucleus, it’s a little bit easier to make those decisions knowing you’ve got a Super Bowl ring in your pocket.”