49ers star Brandon Aiyuk finally decided to…

As the San Francisco 49ers prepare for a pivotal draft that dovetails with the final stages of their perceived championship window — and attempt to navigate a contract staredown with second-team All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk — there are many scenarios in play, and some of them are reasonably juicy.

Based on what I’m hearing from knowledgeable sources inside the building, and from high-ranking personnel executives and coaches around the league, don’t rule out a deal that would send Brock Purdy’s favorite target to another team.

Could Aiyuk, 26, be traded before or after a potential replacement is drafted? We might not have clarity until the 49ers are on the clock in the first round Thursday night, or even the following day. During Monday’s pre-draft news conference at Levi’s Stadium, general manager John Lynch said he “wouldn’t anticipate” such a move, but he was hardly unequivocal.

All I know is that as of Monday night, when I posed the question to a 49ers source with direct knowledge of the team’s plans, the words I kept hearing were “anything’s possible.”

Earlier, I spoke to another team’s general manager who insisted that, because the 49ers and Aiyuk are far apart on negotiations for a lucrative contract extension, the fifth-year receiver is “very much in play.”

During the first week of April, the 49ers — through a back-channel confidant — reached out to at least one GM to gauge his interest in trading for Aiyuk. The GM in question chose not to engage, partly because this is considered a receiver-rich draft.

There is a sense among other high-ranking personnel executives around the league that Aiyuk, as one such executive put it, “is available for the right price.” To this point, the 49ers have asked for a 2024 first-round pick. “They want too much,” said the executive, whose team is in the market for a receiver.

However, another team’s GM said he believes the 49ers ultimately might accept a second-round selection. Such a deal might become more enticing to Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan if that pick were near the start of the second round and packaged with another selection — say, a 2025 third-rounder.

Most likely, Lynch and Shanahan will have to make quick, real-time decisions as the draft is unfolding. The 49ers would be more willing to part with Aiyuk if a receiver they coveted — and who was deemed ready to contribute right away — was there for the taking, either with the team’s pick near the end of Thursday’s first round (31st overall) or with whatever selection the Niners might acquire in a trade.

Though the draft’s highest-rated receivers (Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze) all could be top-10 picks, it’s possible that wideouts such as Brian Thomas Jr., Adonai Mitchell, Ricky Pearsall, Xavier Worthy or Xaxier Legette could compel Lynch and Shanahan to consider a move.

If the 49ers elect not to trade Aiyuk on Thursday — or before or during Friday evening’s second and third rounds — it will be understandable. All things being equal, they want to keep him, and he wants to remain with the organization.

After moving up six spots to select Aiyuk with the 25th overall pick in 2020, the 49ers watched him mature and develop into a consistent playmaker. He had his best season in 2023, leading the 49ers with 75 receptions for 1,342 yards and tying for the team lead with seven touchdown catches. His 51-yard catch of a Purdy pass that bounced off Detroit cornerback Kindle Vildor’s facemask was the signature play of the 49ers’ dramatic second-half comeback against the Lions in January’s NFC Championship Game, which S.F won 34-31.

Given that Aiyuk is a precise route-runner and accomplished downfield blocker who seems to have a special connection with Purdy, his importance to the 49ers is obvious. And because the 49ers, who’ve appeared in four conference-title games and two Super Bowls over the past five seasons without winning a championship, remain all-in on that quest (as Lynch indicated in late February), there’s a strong compulsion to keep the band together in 2024.

Next year, Purdy becomes eligible for a lucrative contract extension, and some difficult salary-cap decisions will have to be made. If the 49ers pay big money to Aiyuk, the team likely would part ways with wide receiver Deebo Samuel and/or tight end George Kittle — each of whom currently has a top-of-market contract — in 2025.

Would the 49ers preemptively trade Samuel or Kittle this week? Don’t expect it to happen. Samuel, who signed a three-year, $71.55 million extension before the 2022 season, has been assured by his bosses that he will not be dealt during or after the draft, according to a source familiar with the conversations. Kittle, who signed a five-year, $75 million deal before the 2020 season, had his contract restructured by the 49ers last month, reportedly creating nearly $10 million in cap space.

Aiyuk, as per the terms of his rookie deal, is scheduled to play on the “fifth-year option” in 2024, which would pay him $14.1 million. Sources around the league believe he is seeking a contract with an annual average of well over $25 million and that the 49ers have been reluctant to meet that price.

The Arizona State alum seems to be following Samuel’s playbook from two years ago. Aiyuk recently unfollowed the 49ers’ Instagram account and, when Lynch expressed optimism last month that a deal could be reached, Aiyuk seemingly responded by posting a series of emojis that translated to “Money talks, bulls— walks.”

Aiyuk has not publicly requested a trade, as Samuel did before the 2022 draft; according to sources familiar with the situation, he has not done so privately, either.

Yet, with receivers like the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson and the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase seeking massive deals that could impact the market — and with DeVonta Smith, the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver, recently having signed a reported three-year, $75 million extension — the situation could become increasingly complicated for the 49ers and Aiyuk.

If the two sides remain far apart on a deal, the 49ers might insist that Aiyuk play under the fifth-year option and resign themselves to sorting out their wide-receiver situation after the coming season. Theoretically, they then could place the franchise tag on Aiyuk. For now, Aiyuk’s options would be limited. He’d be subject to fines for skipping training camp (which the team would have the option to waive) and, if he elected to sit out the season, would not be credited for a year of service.

“That’s the beauty of having the fifth-year option on a player at a premium position,” the 49ers source said.

However, the 49ers could decide that such a scenario would be detrimental to team chemistry and choose to spare themselves the drama. It likely will come down to what they get offered for Aiyuk over the next few days, and whom they might be able to draft as a replacement.

For now, the 49ers are still working through their various options. I’m told they have pondered trading up in the first round, trading out of it entirely or standing pat. If they remain at No. 31, finding a player who instantly could upgrade their secondary or provide competition at right tackle would be the priority, though that could change if someone at another position was believed to be the best player available.


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