49ers Could Trade Starting WR for Huge Return: ‘Presents a Dilemma’

Brandon Aiyuk

Getty San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t worried about the offseason, but wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is already being named as a potential trade piece. Aiyuk is still on his rookie contract, but will be due a big payday soon.

Over the past two seasons, the former Arizona State Sun Devil has taken on a big role. As Deebo Samuel has battled injury, Aiyuk has stepped up to essentially become 49ers QB Brock Purdy’s top target. But San Francisco doesn’t have bottomless pockets, and Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon thinks they could deal Aiyuk because of that.

“Brandon Aiyuk is headed for a very pricey extension once his contract runs out after 2024. Samuel is already signed for more than $20 million through 2025 and presents a dilemma,” Kenyon writes. “…Are the Niners willing to commit $45-plus million to Aiyuk and Samuel? If not, they presumably could land a first-round pick in a trade for Aiyuk and quickly draft his potential replacement.”

It’s a fair point. The 49ers have already committed big money to several players, and there’s also future contracts for Purdy and safety Talonoa Hufanga to consider. That being said, losing Aiyuk to start over with a rookie could be bring more risk than reward.

Brandon Aiyuk Balls in San Francisco

With names like Deebo and tight end George Kittle, Aiyuk had to earn his role on the offense. Being a first-round pick meant he was going to get plenty of opportunities, but he was not entering the locker room as the new premier weapon.

Aiyuk was steady and patient in 2020. As a rookie, he missed time due to injury but caught 60 passes for 748 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. Pro Football Reference shows that he barely bettered his stats the following year with 56 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns.

But it was in 2022 that Aiyuk took his first significant step up. For the first time in his career, he eclipsed the 1000-yard mark (1015) and caught eight touchdowns. The 49ers had gotten more creative with their usage of Samuel, meaning that Aiyuk has essentially spent the last two years as the team’s primary downfield receiver.

San Francisco has seen that come to fruition in 2023. Through eight games, Aiyuk has 38 catches for 675 yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging a whopping 17.8 yards per catch, which ranks 2nd among qualifying players this season.

49ers’ Draft Situation

San Francisco has been tight on draft picks for the past few years, primarily due to the trade for now-Dallas Cowboys QB Trey Lance. The 49ers have not had a first-round pick since 2021, but that changes in 2024.

San Francisco will have five picks in the first three rounds. A trade to take another receiver high up in the draft would avoid the cap issues, but also give them more capital. What that moves hinges on is the 49ers’ feelings on the wide receiver class.

Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabors and Florida State’s Keon Coleman are standouts. Are their ceilings higher than Aiyuk’s? It’s hard to say, especially since they’ve only seen Aiyuk get better over time.

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