The 49ers traded up for Brandon Aiyuk in the 2020 NFL draft to select him No. 25 overall. Aiyuk missed a few games during his rookie year, and despite playing with backup quarterbacks, he amassed 748 receiving yards. That number went up to 826 during his second season, and, finally, during his third year, we saw why the Niners moved up for Aiyuk.
The former Sun Devil surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Aiyuk transformed into a complete receiver between his blocking, work at the intermediate portion of the field, and overall consistency.
Since Aiyuk was a first-round draft pick, his rookie deal comes with a fifth-year team option. So, since his contract technically runs out at the end of the 2023 season, the 49ers have the option to add another year to keep Aiyuk on the roster through the 2024 season.
When the fifth-year contract option was originally implemented, the cost of that additional year was originally calculated simply on draft position. But over time, the NFL and NFLPA have come up with a system that rewards players for playing time and production, as well as factoring in the position that player plays.
The NFL released the details of teams regarding fifth-year options for the 2020 draft class Wednesday.
Fifth-year option totals for 2020 first-round picks have been distributed to teams. Here are the numbers for the four different categories—deadline to pick up the options is the week after the draft. pic.twitter.com/T0r91eEUvl— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 7, 2023
Aiyuk’s fifth-year option will cost the 49ers $14.124 million. That’s a no-brainer for the 49ers. Aiyuk continues to ascend and still hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling. He performed like a top-10 wide receiver in 2022, despite playing with three quarterbacks and being surrounding by other top-10 caliber players.
Context is critical here, as that $14 million figure would make Aiyuk the 28th-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL annually, just below Robbie Anderson. And that’s before any other extensions occur or free agent deals are signed.
The 49ers have until May 1, 2023, which is the Monday following the NFL Draft, to pick up Aiyuk’s option. You’ll see plenty of “trade him, we can’t afford BA” reactions. Aiyuk is the type of wide receiver you need on your roster to win in the NFL. He’ll be 25 in March. His extension should become a priority, especially while you have a quarterback on a rookie deal.
Aiyuk wasn’t the only first-round pick the 49ers made in 2020. Javon Kinlaw, who has struggled to stay healthy, has a fifth-year option for $10.455 million. The 49ers rolled the dice and felt as though they needed to replace DeForest Buckner with the top-15 choice, but Kinlaw, who had an injury history at South Carolina, has struggled to stay healthy in the NFL.
While it’s unlikely the 49ers pick up Kinlaw’s fifth-year option, he started the final six games of the season and a healthy offseason should do him wonders. It’s unclear if he still has the same level of explosion after multiple injuries, but I’m not ready to give up on Kinlaw as a contributor for the 49ers just yet.