Tuesday, June 18, 2024

4 Trade Packages for Brandon Aiyuk That 49ers Couldn’t Deny Amid NFL Holdout

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The San Francisco 49ers have reached a crossroads with Brandon Aiyuk. The star wideout is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the club, but there’s a chance Aiyuk doesn’t suit up for the Niners at all in 2024.

Aiyuk declined to attend the team’s mandatory minicamp, starting off what could be a potentially lengthy holdout for the receiver as he seeks a new deal. According to The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver, the 49ers have reportedly put an offer in “in the $26 million range” on the table but Aiyuk is allegedly looking for more. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the wideout wants to earn more than the $28 million annually that Amon-Ra St. Brown recently agreed to with the Detroit Lions.

If the two sides cannot break this impasse, a trade may be the best option. The cash-strapped 49ers would benefit from not only freeing up the money earmarked for Aiyuk’s next contract, but also from returning a hefty amount of draft capital and/or useful young talent.

With that in mind, here are
four trade packages the Niners would have to consider if floated.

Justin Casterline/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers receive:
2025 first-round pick, TE Darnell Washington

Pittsburgh Steelers receive: WR
Brandon Aiyuk

The Pittsburgh Steelers are set
to enter a new era after making multiple quarterback-related maneuvers this
offseason. While the team should improve with Russell Wilson now under center,
it still needs to find an elite wideout to pair with George Pickens to round
out the passing attack.

Adding Aiyuk into the mix
would give Pittsburgh one of the most devastating receiving corps in football.
The wideout has thrived in the same offense as another top-tier talent in Deebo Samuel
during their time together in San Francisco and should have no problem
continuing to dominate alongside Pickens.

A first-round pick should get the 49ers’ brass listening, while adding in Darnell Washington—the massive tight end who Pittsburgh brought in with the No. 93 overall pick last year—could sweeten the pot enough to get a deal done.

Washington’s rookie stats may not jump off the page, but the raw 6’7″, 264-pounder could flourish in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s creative San Francisco offense. The 22-year-old would immediately slot in as a capable blocking tight end with the upside to replace George Kittle as a top receiving threat down the line.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers receive:
2025 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick

New York Jets receive: WR Brandon

The New York Jets know their Super Bowl window won’t be open much longer and need to do everything possible to capitalize on Aaron Rodgers’ last remaining years in the NFL.

While Gang Green already boasts a solid receiver’s room headlined by Garrett Wilson, Aiyuk’s presence would take it over the top. New York’s offense would be borderline unstoppable with a pair of top-10 wideouts augmented by veteran red zone threat Mike Williams and high-upside rookie Malachi “YAC King” Corley.

The Jets would likely need to offer up their top two selections in the 2025 draft to land Aiyuk, but the returns could be immense. It’s just the kind of move that a franchise suffering through the longest active streak of seasons without a playoff berth in major American sports needs to become relevant again.

Mortgaging the future for a vastly improved chance at winning the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl—and first since Joe Namath led the Jets to one all the way back in 1968—would be the right call, bringing some much-needed excitement and hope to fans around the Big Apple.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers receive: WR Christian Watson, 2025 second-round pick

Green Bay Packers receive: WR Brandon Aiyuk

The Green Bay Packers emerged as one of the league’s most astonishing contenders last year, even pulling off a Wild Card round upset before their thrilling playoff run came to an end. Expectations for this upstart club are now elevated, making an Aiyuk trade one method for the Packers to meet these lofty projections.

While Green Bay already has a slew of intriguing young wideouts in Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks and Christian Watson on the roster, none of these pass-catchers are as well-rounded or as proven as Aiyuk. Flipping Watson—who possesses arguably the most upside of any receiver on this roster—and a second-round pick to the 49ers could get a deal done that will take the Packers to the next level.

Aiyuk would immediately slot in as the clear-cut No. 1 option in Green Bay’s aerial attack. His presence would allow Jordan Love to further elevate his game after reaching the postseason in his first year as a starter.

Watson should greatly intrigue the Niners’ brass as well. Although he has only appeared in 23 games since being drafted No. 34 overall in 2022, he has been a consistent scoring force when healthy. He’s racked up 14 total touchdowns since entering the NFL and his unique blend of size (6’4″, 208 pounds) and athleticism could be put to great use in San Francisco’s scheme.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers receive: Edge
Joey Bosa, 2025 second-round pick

Los Angeles Chargers receive: WR
Brandon Aiyuk

The Los Angeles Chargers are preparing for a critical season in quarterback Justin Herbert’s development and still need to find an elite receiver to augment the rising star signal-caller.

After parting ways with both
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the team has little in the way of experienced
pass-catchers remaining on the roster. The Bolts do have two high-upside young
talents in Ladd McConkey and Quentin Johnston but noticeably lack a battle-tested veteran
like Aiyuk to lead this unit under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

One creative way L.A. could try
to lure Aiyuk away from San Francisco is by offering up Joey Bosa in trade

Bosa has been struggling with injury in recent seasons but is still a force when available. He’s racked up 67 sacks in his first 93 career games and could be rejuvenated playing on the same defensive line as his brother Nick. Even Bosa’s own mother has been pleading with the Chargers to make this move, although a 1:1 swap for Aiyuk likely wouldn’t be in the cards.

Los Angeles would need to add a premium pick to get this deal done. A 2025 second-rounder could do the trick, allowing San Francisco to move on from Aiyuk in exchange for both a much-needed edge rusher and an elite prospect in next year’s draft.

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