49ers may pursue this option with Brandon Aiyuk if they don't extend him

Brandon Aiyuk is under contractual control through 2024, and the Niners have another option to keep him around for even longer.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The 49ers may likely extend Brandon Aiyuk soon, but there's another route they may opt to take if no deal can be reached.

Historically, the San Francisco 49ers announce extensions for their star players awaiting new deals right before training camp, or as was the case with defensive end Nick Bosa in 2023, just prior to the regular season.

Now, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is the latest in that long line.

Training camp is weeks away, and Aiyuk has yet to receive an offer from the Niners to his liking.

According to recent reports, Aiyuk wants a deal worth roughly $30 million per year, while San Francisco's latest offer was around $26 million, annually. As Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer pointed out, that's not a big difference but it's a point where "things get ugliest towards the end."

For now, it's a standoff, one that had Aiyuk accusing the 49ers of not wanting him, while other NFL insiders felt that wasn't the case whatsoever.

Which side gives in?

It's important to point out that Aiyuk is still under contract through 2024, playing the fully guaranteed fifth-year option, worth $14.124 million. Sure, he could continue his holdout into training camp, as Bosa did, but that doesn't mean the Niners have to cave to such pressure. They may opt to, hoping to prevent a would-be disgruntled Aiyuk in the locker room.

But it's not a necessity.

There is, however, another route San Francisco could take.

49ers could save money by applying a franchise tag on Brandon Aiyuk

Forget about trading Aiyuk, especially right now. Unless the 49ers' season goes into the tank, and no long-term extension is reached with the receiver, Aiyuk won't be dealt.

There is a strong chance the Niners table contract talks with Aiyuk, especially if the impasse can't be bridged between now and Week 1. That would leave Aiyuk in a contract-year setting and potentially up for a massive free-agent deal in 2025, right?

Not necessarily.

San Francisco could opt to apply the franchise tag here, something it doesn't use frequently and hasn't applied since doing so with kicker Robbie Gould back in February of 2019 before eventually working out his own long-term contract extension.

According to Over the Cap, the fully guaranteed franchise tag amount for wide receivers in 2025 is $24.764 million. That's more than $1.2 million less than the reported $26 million per-year deal the 49ers reportedly offered and substantially less than the $30 million per-year asking price from Aiyuk's camp.

Additionally, the Niners could apply the tag again in 2026, although that estimated cost isn't yet known.

Granted, franchise tags are rarely popular with players, who prefer long-term stability and negotiated costs over immediate short-term payouts, even if they are guaranteed. And San Francisco doesn't want to create a rift in the locker room if Aiyuk feels he's not being treated fairly.

Still, it's an option the 49ers may explore, one that could ultimately save them a good deal of cash in the interim.

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