49ers have run out of time on Brandon Aiyuk contract extension

The 49ers have slow-played Brandon Aiyuk's lucrative contract extension, holding firm to their valuation of the player.

But the recent developments in the market have left them running out of time.

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

No player on the San Francisco 49ers have been simultaneously helped and hurt more than wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk throughout his career.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan's lethal offensive system revolving around a hub of talented players has given Aiyuk the space necessary to carve out productive and explosive seasons, but the Niners' insistence on a run-first equitable offense deprived the fourth-year pro of the traditional counting stats a bonafide star receiver would have.

Make no mistake, though, Aiyuk is a star receiver in the NFL, circling the upper echelon, albeit perhaps not atop the mountaintop some of his contemporaries stand above.

ESPN's wide receiver analytics ranked Aiyuk as the best receiver in the NFL with a 97 overall score. Despite the 49ers proclivity to run the ball, he finished the season (including the postseason) with 1,491 receiving yards.

However, a lackluster Super Bowl with only threee catches for 49 yards and a rough day against a stifling Kansas City Chiefs secondary pointed out the ways in which Aiyuk still needs to improve to reach the pinnacle of best receiver in the NFL.

One of his contemporaries many would claim is currently ranked above Aiyuk, the Minnesota Vikings' Justin Jefferson, just received his own contract extension, becoming the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

Jefferson's contract offers a natural ceiling for Aiyuk's own contract, giving the 49ers somewhat of a range to work with.

In that way, Jefferson's contract benefits San Francisco. But it has removed all of its buffer.

49ers must be the next team to give a wide receiver contract

Another wide receiver from Aiyuk's draft class, CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys, is also awaiting a contract extension. Though Lamb has the bigger numbers, the difference between him and Aiyuk is a little more blurry.

Lamb will also be likely capped by Jefferson's contract, which puts the 49ers in a race. Most contract extensions for talented players, like Aiyuk and Lamb, are a comparative exercise in trying to beat the standard set by other players. With Jefferson as the ceiling, that leaves Aiyuk and Lamb in a "competition" with each other to come as close to that contract as possible.

Whoever comes to terms on a contract first will likely receive less than the other player.

The Niners have been jumped several times by teams handing out contract extensions to receivers this offseason, with Detroit Lions wideoutAmon-Ra St. Brown's contract in particular having become a new benchmark, but Jefferson's contract is the last straw.

If the 49ers don't come to terms with Aiyuk before Dallas comes to terms with Lamb, they'll have failed these negotiations, and Aiyuk's eventual contract may be too large for them to handle.

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