49ers GM says WR Aiyuk not available for trade

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Standing on the sideline at Michigan’s pro day last week, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shared a laugh when Tomlin brought up Niners wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

Speculation about Aiyuk’s future with the team has persisted for more than a year and reached a crescendo this offseason as Aiyuk prepares for the final year on his rookie contract. That includes rumored trades all over the NFL map, including to Tomlin’s Steelers.

Speaking to a small group of reporters Monday afternoon at the NFL league meetings, Lynch offered his most definitive statement yet that not only is Aiyuk not available for trade but that the team has already begun discussing with Aiyuk and his representatives the parameters of an extension that will keep him around long term.

“[Tomlin] is like, ‘Bro, what’s going on,'” Lynch said, laughing. “I promise you nothing’s going on there. We’re actively talking with Brandon trying to figure something out. We have a good history of working with the guys we want to get done to get something done and it takes two sides. So, can we do that? We’ll see. There’s a number of different directions that it could go but we appreciate the heck out of Brandon and who he is as a player, and we want him to be a part of the Niners. We’re going to work towards making that a reality.”

Aiyuk, meanwhile, posted an Instagram story Monday afternoon with a series of emojis that translate to, “money talks, bulls— walks.”

The trade conjecture surrounding Aiyuk has never come from the 49ers. At last year’s league meetings in Arizona, Lynch confirmed that the Niners had been approached by other teams to gauge their interest in dealing Aiyuk, only for Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan to reject those overtures.

But that hasn’t stopped the conversation from continuing, largely because of the Niners’ increasingly top-heavy roster that includes highly paid stars such as left tackle Trent Williams, defensive end Nick Bosa, receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner.

The outside assumption has been that the 49ers would be unable to sign the ascending Aiyuk — who is coming off a 75-catch, 1,342-yard, 7-touchdown season that landed him a second team All Pro nod — because of the cap crunch created by those other contracts.

Aiyuk is currently scheduled to count $14.124 million against the cap in 2024 should he play under the fifth-year option the team exercised on the 2020 No. 25 overall pick last summer. With a contract extension, the Niners could actually lower that cap hit and maintain a relatively small number for 2025 so that by the time his larger salaries kick in, some of those other big-money deals would be off the books.

“There’s nothing better than drafting a guy, developing a guy, watching him flourish and then rewarding him,” Lynch said. “That’s really what we’d love to do.”

While Lynch is optimistic a deal for Aiyuk can be done, he also was clear that it won’t be easy. The Niners have a history of getting lucrative contract extensions done with their homegrown stars such as Kittle, Warner, Samuel and Bosa but those discussions have always lasted up to and sometimes into training camp. Just last year, Bosa’s megadeal wasn’t finalized until days before the season opener against the Steelers.

It’s possible a similar scenario could play out for Aiyuk, who the Niners envision as part of their next nucleus of stars to build around.

“We’re talking with his guys and trying to talk about some parameters of some things,” Lynch said. “We’re having discussions. That’s a good thing.”

On Monday, Lynch also explained the accounting error that cost the Niners a fifth-round draft pick in 2025 and four draft slots at the end of the fourth round this year.

According to Lynch, during the 2020 season the Niners overpaid a player by $75,000. While that payment did not push them over the salary cap, they also did not discover it until the fall of 2022. After attempting to recoup the money, the 49ers eventually reported the error to the league. Lynch indicated that delay in reporting is why the NFL decided to penalize the team as much as it did even if he disagreed with the punishment.

“I have a difference of opinion on the severity of the discipline,” Lynch said. “We take accountability for what happened … We own our part, we’ve gone through a whole mitigation deal to remedy some of the issues that happened, but the league decided to impose that. So, you take your medicine, and you move on.”

As for a couple of injured Niners, Lynch confirmed that Kittle and cornerback Charvarius Ward both had core muscle surgeries that will keep them out for the entire offseason program, but they should be able to return for training camp.

“I’ve had that surgery myself when I was playing and [it has a] pretty high success rate of healing and it feels a lot better once you get it done,” Lynch said. “It hurts constantly having that core tugging at you. So those guys have both got that fixed.”

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