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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Kyle Madson

Why extending Brandon Aiyuk is essential for 49ers

Extending wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is sitting highlighted and in bold type atop the 49ers’ imaginary offseason to-do list. The reasons for keeping him in the building were established over the last two seasons when Aiyuk led the team in receiving despite dealing with an array of quarterback tumult and playing third or fourth fiddle to the team’s other offensive weapons.

Aiyuk is ascending as one of the five or 10 best receivers in football. That alone is reason enough to pay to keep him in Santa Clara. There’s a ripple effect created by keeping him though that is an essential piece of the 49ers’ long-term future.

What Aiyuk has been able to do in an offense that also features WR Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and running back Christian McCaffrey has been undeniably impressive. He’s built a good rapport with quarterback Brock Purdy and he thrives in the same areas of the field that Purdy is at his best throwing to.

That relationship with the young QB is the key reason San Francisco has to ensure Aiyuk is back for the foreseeable future.

It appears the 49ers are ready to make Purdy their franchise quarterback, and with his extension due as early as next offseason, they’ll need to start figuring out how to build a roster around a quarterback contract that sits near the top of the market instead of literally at the very bottom of it.

That has to start with Aiyuk, who will be 26-years old for the 2024 season. His prime aligns with Purdy’s, but it also aligns with the inevitable exodus of the 49ers’ other star players.

Samuel is 28, Kittle turns 31 in October, and McCaffrey will turn 28 before the 2024 campaign kicks off. All three of that trio have two years left on their contracts. Even if they re-sign in San Francisco they’ll be either past or on the back-end of their primes.

Letting Aiyuk out the door via trade puts the 49ers in danger of having a barren roster around their young, expensive franchise quarterback just one year after signing him to a long-term deal. Sure, they could retool and add pieces via the draft and free agency, but they have an ascending superstar already in their building who already has good chemistry with said QB.

Paying another WR top-of-market money when the offense is already loaded with stars is probably not an easy pill for the front office to swallow. That’s the short-term view though. Aiyuk has to stick around for the long-term because the 49ers are ultimately a team in transition. They’re in the process of moving from one core to another, and Aiyuk is firmly implanted in that new wave of 49ers player who would ideally be at the forefront of a Super Bowl window flung wide open again.

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