49ers' Brandon Aiyuk not participating in OTAs as he awaits new deal

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In what has become an offseason tradition in these parts, the San Francisco 49ers are without one of their best players during the voluntary portion of the offseason program as he awaits a lucrative contract extension.

This time, it's wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, whom the Niners would like to re-sign for the long haul but who is staying away during organized team activities as his representatives work on a new deal with the team.

After Tuesday's OTA, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan remained unfazed by Aiyuk's absence when asked about him and other Niners not participating in the voluntary sessions.

"[I feel the] same as I do about all these guys that aren't here," Shanahan said. "I mean, I wish they were here, but it's something that's part of the business. Anytime it's the business part, you try to respect it, stay out of it as much as possible. I look forward to the days when we just focus on football."

Shanahan's lack of concern could be attributed to the fact that a star player missing this part of the offseason is nothing new in Santa Clara. Tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner, wideoutDeebo Samuel Sr.and defensive end Nick Bosa have all signed big-money deals in each of the past four offseasons, with those contract negotiations extending up to either right before or during training camp.

Like those before him, an extension for Aiyuk doesn't appear imminent, with the start of training camp in late July and the regular season in early September serving as more serious unofficial deadlines.

Each of the previous deals came together with varying degrees of tension, with Samuel's being the most contentious. At one point in the 2022 offseason, Samuel requested a trade, and though the Niners listened to offers during that year's NFL draft, they held on to Samuel and eventually came to terms on an extension.

The discussions surrounding Aiyuk have not reached those levels despite outside speculation that he wanted to be traded following some cryptic social media posts. But Aiyuk hasn't been a complete stranger at the team's facility this offseason and reached out to Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to compliment them on selecting receiver Ricky Pearsall (who played with Aiyuk briefly atArizona State) with the No. 31 pick in this year's draft.

While Lynch and Shanahan acknowledged they would listen to trade offers for anyone, they didn't shy away from possible interest in Aiyuk or Samuel during the draft. But they never planned to trade either receiver unless they received an offer that was too good to refuse.

That made for some tense moments for some of Samuel and Aiyuk's teammates, such as quarterback Brock Purdy, even though nothing came to fruition.

"The draft is going on and obviously you're excited to get guys that you're drafting," Purdy said. "But at the same time it's like, dang dude, we could have some kind of trade stuff happen. But like I said, all that's out of my control. I was sort of just sitting there waiting to see what our team was going to do and everything and my job was to show up and rip it to the open guy and try to win games. So that's my mindset with it. But I do love my boys and I obviously hope that we can all continue to play together."

Aiyuk is entering the final year of his rookie contract and slated to count $14.124 million against the salary cap in 2024. He's coming off a 75-catch, 1,342-yard, 7-touchdown season that earned him a second-team All-Pro selection.

Bosa, who is attending this year's OTAs after missing the past few because of COVID-19, a knee injury and a contract-related holdout, respectively, said Tuesday he has been in touch with Aiyuk and is available as a resource should his teammate need him.

"We chat a little bit, but not too much about the details," Bosa said. "I just told him keep his head up and try and stay positive through it all."