Will Brandon Aiyuk live up to his contract extension (if he gets it)?

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Brandon Aiyuk deserves a pay raise. But, will that money ultimately be justified by the kind of output he's shown over the last two years?

Motivation can be a tricky thing.

And you've probably seen this kind of story before. A player is entering a contract year and wants a well-deserved extension, particularly after outperforming his dollar amount, previously. But, once that new contract arrives, said player "slacks off a bit" and fails to live up to the money spent.

Even if it's not universal among all players who receive extensions, it happens. Or it can be perceived as happening.

And, possibly, that could be how things go down with San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who is seeking his own contract extension after leading the team in receiving yards over back-to-back years.

The Niners have two case studies in this recently. In 2022, a year after finishing with a first-team All-Pro nod and a whopping 1,770 all-purpose yards, wide receiver Deebo Samuel endured a contentious offseason in which he sought a new contract but also demanded a trade.

While the two parties eventually came to an agreement, Samuel's 2022 efforts were far from All-Pro worthy, and he described them as "awful."

In 2023, a year after being named the Defensive Player of the Year by leading the league with 18.5 sacks, defensive end Nick Bosa held out into training camp before becoming the NFL's highest-paid defensive player in history. Yet his 2023 totals were comparatively underwhelming with 10.5 sacks, evne though his presence still mattered in many other ways.

Is Aiyuk potentially trending in the same direction?

Could Brandon Aiyuk regress after securing contract extension?

There are reasons for and against Aiyuk suffering any sort of regression in 2024.

Now, he's still under contract with San Francisco through the year, and the team doesn't have to extend him at the moment. Aiyuk could theoretically play out the remainder of his contract and either hit the open market in 2025 or even be slapped with a franchise tag a little less than a year from now.

But, assuming the 49ers want to honor one of their best offensive weapons with a new deal, perhaps in the range of $25 million per year, an extension likely won't happen until training camp.

According to recent reports, the two sides aren't close on such a deal, meaning Aiyuk isn't attending voluntary organized team activities, and his holdout could potentially extend into training camp, as did Bosa's a year ago. Considering Aiyuk is on a fully guaranteed fifth-year option, the Niners won't be inclined to fine Aiyuk if he's skipping out on those mandatory practices.

Bosa admitted that holdout hindered his 2023 campaign, which possibly suggests why he's an attendee during OTAs after not previously participating in other years.

Could skipping camp hinder Aiyuk?

It's possible.

At the same time, Aiyuk already has a demonstrated chemistry with quarterback Brock Purdy that San Francisco won't want to mess with. Even after using a first-round NFL Draft pick on wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, Aiyuk remains the No. 1 pass-catching option, and Pearsall's presence spells more danger for Samuel over the long run than it would Aiyuk.

As such, the only remaining X-factor might be whether or not Aiyuk remains motivated after securing a big-money deal while also not letting any absences impact his on-field readiness.

Those elements aren't going to be determined until the 2024 season is well underway.

Instead, all one can hope for is that Aiyuk continues his trend of being the 49ers' leading receiver regardless of his contract status, situation and amount.

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