5 potential Brandon Aiyuk landing spots if 49ers, WR can’t reach a deal

5 potential Brandon Aiyuk landing spots if 49ers, WR can’t reach a deal

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Another NFL offseason, another contract dispute in San Francisco. Last year, it was star edge rusher Nick Bosa who signed a record-setting deal after a holdout. This year, it’s 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The former first-round pick is fresh off a standout year in 2023. He had 75 receptions for a career-high 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns to earn second-team All-Pro honors. He didn’t just stand out in counting statistics; according to Sports Information Solutions (SIS) data, Aiyuk was the fourth-best wide receiver in the league by their advanced metrics.

He is entering the final year of his rookie contract and skipped minicamp amid contract disputes. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported after the 2024 NFL Draft that multiple teams were interested in trading for Aiyuk. That did not come to fruition but the 49ers and Aiyuk are yet to come to a resolution. They are meeting this week, according to ESPN’s Ryan Clark.

If the two teams cannot come to terms on a contract, he could be traded before the 2024 regular season. Here are five potential landing spots:

Washington’s an easy pick as a destination. Washington’s top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft – No. 2 overall pick Jayden Daniels – played with Aiyuk at Arizona State in 2019 and the two remain close friends. Washington’s first-year general manager, Adam Peters, spent the last seven years with San Francisco.

The Commanders currently have $37 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap, and that goes up to $71.2 million next season. With Daniels on a rookie contract for the next few seasons, Washington has the cap space to handle an Aiyuk extension.

In return, San Francisco could receive a mid-round pick in addition to a wide receiver. Jahan Dotson, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is under contract for the next two seasons before a club option in 2026, per Spotrac. Terry McLaurin is entering his age-29 season and his cap hits are relatively high for San Francisco to take on at $24.1 million and $23.6 million in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Pittsburgh worked on a deal for Aiyuk during the 2024 NFL Draft, according to NFL insider Michael Lombardi. That did not end up happening but talks could resume months later. The Steelers could still use an upgrade at the position opposite George Pickens after trading Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers do not have a lot of cap space in 2024 at $15 million, per Over the Cap, but that rockets up in 2025 though to $77.2 million, enough to work a potential extension in. Pittsburgh currently holds an extra fifth round pick and in the 2025 NFL Draft and could package that or an earlier selection as well as a player. Second-year tight end Darnell Washington, wideout Van Jefferson, or defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk could all be options.

The Panthers were aggressive in upgrading the offensive infrastructure by trading with Pittsburgh for Johnson and spending top draft picks at wide receiver (Xavier Legette), running back (Jonathan Brooks), and tight end (Ja’Tavion Sanders).

Still, the Panthers could opt to upgrade even more around second-year quarterback Bryce Young. The salary cap situation isn’t great with $6 million in room in 2024 and $16.4 in 2025, per Over the Cap. But they do have a league-high 10 selections in the 2025 NFL Draft at the time of publishing.

Carolina could package a mid- to late-round pick and second-year wide receiver Jonathan Mingo in return for Aiyuk. The 49ers met with Mingo ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft and would help San Francisco get younger at the position.

New York is another team with ties to the 49ers as head coach Robert Saleh spent four years as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco. Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers turns 41 this season and, with one of the most talented defenses in the league, the team is set to contend in the short term. A top-tier wide receiver opposite Garrett Wilson would be an upgrade going into the season.

Like the Panthers, the Jets’ cap space in 2024 is around $6 million. That jumps to $58.2 million in 2025, though, enough to work in the first year of a potential extension for Aiyuk.

New York holds an extra third-round pick in the 2025 NFL Draft from a draft day trade with the Lions. That means either third-round pick could be the starting point of a trade for Aiyuk in addition to a player. A similar system on defense could open the door for a lineman, such as Jermaine Johnson or Michael Clemons, to complete the deal.

The second NFC South team on this list isn’t afraid of spending big to contend in the short term. New Orleans is currently $88 million over the salary cap in 2025 but has found ways to become cap-compliant in prior seasons.

For the first time since 2008, Pete Carmichael is not the Saints’ offensive coordinator. Newcomer Klint Kubiak takes the reins after spending last season as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator and knows how best to deploy Aiyuk.

New Orleans finished tied with division winner Tampa Bay at 9-8 but didn’t make the playoffs due to tiebreakers. Bringing in Aiyuk, as well as Kubiak, could improve the offense enough to push them into the playoff race in the NFC.

In exchange for Aiyuk, the Saints could package one of their 2025 draft picks and a player such as All-Pro kick returner (and starting wide receiver) Rashid Shaheed, second-year wideout A.T. Perry, or a defensive lineman like Payton Turner or Isaiah Foskey.

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