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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Bose

The NFL receiver market: some teams get it, others don't

"They said they don't want me back."

On Monday, June 17th, San Francisco 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk posted a Facetime video to his TikTok account involving Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels. Daniels and Aiyuk were teammates at Arizona State University, so Daniels was ecstatic to hear that Aiyuk might be available to acquire via trade. Aiyuk's words speak for themselves, so the real question is how did his relationship with the 49ers sour so quickly?

The primary reason is timing, and it's not unique to Aiyuk and the 49ers. Some general managers opt to extend players in anticipation of market shocks, whereas others wait for players to prove themselves. Take Howie Roseman and the Eagles, for example. This offseason, Roseman extended All-Pro receiver AJ Brown through 2029 on a 3-year, $96 million deal, and DeVonta Smith on a 3-year, $75 million deal. Roseman extended Smith before the wideout's fifth-year option in 2025, ensuring Smith will remain in Philly through 2028. Roseman also made sure to get both deals signed, sealed, and delivered before the Vikings finalized their deal with Justin Jefferson, who would reset the market with a 4-year, $140 million deal.

While some GMs are ahead of the curve, others are not. For example, the Dallas Cowboys are currently in contract negotiations with CeeDee Lamb, who is asking for the sun, moon, and stars. Lamb wants a contract on par with the one Jefferson has, and Dallas is not budging. The Cowboys drafted Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, while Philadelphia drafted Smith in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite having an extra year with Lamb than the Eagles had with Smith, Dallas failed to get a deal done before Jefferson signed.

Lamb and quarterback Dak Prescott are each in the final year of their respective contracts, and neither has signed an extension. Micah Parsons is also due for a massive contract, but Lamb and Prescott are the immediate concern. In San Francisco, Aiyuk still has another year on his contract, but the 49ers have to allocate money for Brock Purdy. In both cases, the general managers let the grass grow under their feet, and now it's too late.

Dallas made this mistake the first time around with Prescott, and they didn't learn their lesson. Instead of striking while the iron was hot, Dallas watched Lamb become a 3x Pro-bowler, a First-team All-Pro in 2023, and a Second-team All-Pro in 2022, without extending him.

San Francisco is reportedly offering Aiyuk a deal analogous to that of Smith's with the Eagles, around $26 million per year. However, after Amon-Ra St. Brown signed a 4-year, $120 million extension with Detroit, Aiyuk will want a contract closer to St. Brown's. The 49ers are in a tough spot, given the timing, and it was wise of the Eagles to lock in Smith before St. Brown's contract.

Ultimately, timing is everything when it comes to contract negotiations. For teams like San Francisco and Dallas who could not agree to terms with their receivers early on, they now face the reality of biting the bullet. The Cowboys will ultimately give in and do exactly that, while the 49ers might risk losing Aiyuk as a result. San Francisco has alternative methods to make room for Aiyuk, like trading Deebo Samuel. However, they want to get the band back together for one final push for the Lombardi Trophy before Purdy finalizes his deal.

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