49ers fuel Brandon Aiyuk trade rumors by visiting with top prospect wide receivers

Are the Niners potentially looking at replacing Brandon Aiyuk via the draft?

Their visits tracker suggests it.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

It's clear there's a standoff between Brandon Aiyuk and the 49ers, who aren't shying away from looking at potential replacements in the NFL Draft.

Speaking from the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch assured reporters there was "nothing going on there" with regard to trade speculation surrounding star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

Aiyuk is seeking a lucrative contract extension this offseason. With the Niners' own salary cap constraints heading into 2024, there's a possibility they are unable to meet his contractual demands.

"I'm trying to get what I deserve," Aiyuk told Shannon Sharpe and Chad Johnson on the Nightcap podcast. "I feel like this season, this season playing football, I figured out who I was as a person and a player, what I bring to the table, what I bring to the locker room, what I bring to the organization. And just the value I hold when I walk in that building."

Additionally, some cryptic social media posts by Aiyuk have triggered even more question marks about the wide receiver's immediate future with San Francisco.

Granted, the 49ers do have a history of rewarding their top players. But they also have a precedent when such deals fall through.

Back in 2020, when the Niners couldn't come to extension agreements with Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, they ultimately opted to trade him to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round NFL Draft pick that was subsequently used on his replacement, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.

Is San Francisco preparing to do the same thing with Aiyuk? Even if Lynch says otherwise, there are signs that the 49ers could at least be exploring the possibility.

49ers have met with numerous wide receiver prospects ahead of 2024 NFL Draft, what does that mean for Brandon Aiyuk?

Aiyuk doesn't sound like he's willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the Niners. That's his decision, and it's a fair one.

But, it also sounds like the Niners may be open to playing hardball, too.

As compiled by 49ers Webzone, San Francisco is conducting top-30 pre-draft visits with at least three upper-end wide receivers ahead of this year's NFL Draft:

  • WR Javon Baker, UCF
  • WR Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky
  • WR Brenden Rice, USC

The 49ers are also reportedly meeting with three other defensive backs, a couple of defensive linemen and a linebacker. But it's the sheer number of wideouts that should garner some interest.

Baker and Corley are widely viewed as day-two picks, potentially targets in Round 2 of the draft, which would save the 49ers from having to use their first-round selection on the position. Rice, the son of Hall of Fame great Jerry Rice, is likely to be picked early on day three of the draft.

The Niners don't necessarily need another upper-echelon wide receiver. At least not if Aiyuk is in their plans. Paired with Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings, Aiyuk helps comprise a top-three wideout group that should be among the league's best.

But, if San Francisco is considering trading Aiyuk, doing this top-30 visits with at least three receivers is certainly a precursor.

Of course, there's always the strong chance that the 49ers are merely keeping their options open, especially if talks between them and Aiyuk's camp break down.

One can only hope the latter is truer than the former possibility.

Read more from Niner Noise