It’s not quite clear what he meant, but 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk tweeted out something that might be perceived as shade toward his employer.
In fairness, few have.
Aiyuk, the Niners’ second of two first-round picks from that year’s draft, took a couple of seasons to make a mark. But, over the course of 2022, the former Arizona State product put together the kind of year head coach Kyle Shanahan had been hoping for.
Not necessarily Aiyuk.
However, over the course of last season and with three different quarterbacks at the helm, Aiyuk actually ended up leading Shanahan’s offense with 78 receptions and 1,015 receiving yards.
Neither Kittle nor Samuel crested the 1,000-yard plateau.
Heading into year four of his pro career, is Aiyuk wanting to establish himself as the 49ers’ best pass-catching weapon over some of his teammates? Is he potentially at odds with the Niners, too, with regard to contract talks?
Did Brandon Aiyuk just throw shade at 49ers on Twitter?
Earlier this week, Aiyuk took to his Twitter account to remind the world of the contributions he made over the course of 2022:
Namely, pointing out that he had over 1,000 yards as the No. 4 option in a run-first offense is, well… provocative.
For starters, Shanahan does have a run-first system. Aiyuk probably can dream a little about playing with volume-type quarterbacks like the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins or Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, as either would surely drive up the receiver’s stats.
Aiyuk did get that 1,000-yard mark. But, considering he also led San Francisco in targets with 114, does that truly make him the fourth option?
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No. Mathematically, it certainly doesn’t. However, if Aiyuk is merely pointing out that others like Kittle, Samuel and even running back Christian McCaffrey have bigger name recognition, maybe it’s not too hard to see his frustrations.
Are they at the 49ers, though?
Will 49ers extend Brandon Aiyuk this offseason?
The 2023 offseason marks the first time Aiyuk would be eligible for a contract extension, and mere tweets with subtle hints can be part of the negotiation process.
However, the Niners have historically waited until the offseason prior to a player’s contract year before engaging in extension talks, and Aiyuk still has a fifth-year option in play for 2024. So, with that in mind, San Francisco probably won’t even sniff out contract talks for another full year.
Perhaps Aiyuk is upset with that, though, and he’d like to safeguard his future sooner than later.
But, could the 49ers afford to do so?
A year ago, the Niners already extended Samuel at a lucrative three-year deal worth almost $24 million, annually, per Over the Cap. Kittle’s own cap hits increase significantly in 2023, too, while McCaffrey isn’t exactly a cheap commodity at an annual average of $16 million.
Granted, OTC projects San Francisco to have $23 million in cap space in 2024 and $95 million in 2025, but there are far too many X-factors at play to suggest Aiyuk is guaranteed an extension from the 49ers.
It’d likely be difficult to offer up two sizable contract extensions at the position in parallel.
Perhaps Aiyuk recognizes that. Or, just maybe, he wants recognition from around the league as one of the NFL’s better offensive players.
You’d have to ask him, though.