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Did John Lynch foreshadow the 49ers strategy with Brandon Aiyuk and his future?

Aiyuk will be a part of the 49ers future. But will it be for the foreseeable future?

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Yesterday’s pre-draft press conference with John Lynch yielded some typical media-trained answers and statements littered with sayings such as: “due diligence,” “competing,” and “excitement.”

But Lynch was asked about the rumors surrounding Trey Lance and a possible trade, which yielded a response that could foreshadow how the team will approach Brandon Aiyuk’s impending free agency in two seasons.

Lynch was asked:

This is not necessarily a draft question, but I guess it is as far as timing. What’s been your level of transparency with QB Trey Lance as far as what’s transpired as far as teams reaching out to you? What have you told him, and where does it stand?

“Generally, our policy, my policy, if we’re actively trying to trade a player, not trying to, if we’re having discussions. For instance, last year with [T] Mike [McGlinchey], it became apparent that a year away from that, it was going to be tough to resign him with [T] Trent Williams in the building and the reality of our roster. I brought Mike McGlinchey up and said, ‘Hey, Mike, from being a player myself I never want you to hear from anyone else that you’re being shopped, so I’m telling you, we are going to talk to some teams,’ if we’re fielding inbound calls, I think I’d be doing that every single day if I’m telling every single player.”

Now, the rest of the quote ends with Lynch insisting he’s “excited for Trey to compete next season,” and that there has been “good communication.”

What does this comment have to do with Aiyuk? Well, the first part to mention is Aiyuk still has a fifth-year option that can be picked up by Monday after the draft, but McGlinchey did as well and the 49ers declined McGlinchey’s.

Lynch was asked about Aiyuk’s fifth-year option:

Regarding Aiyuk, if you pick up his fifth-year option with what that number will be next year and WR Deebo Samuel’s number, we’ve talked about you can’t keep McGlinchey and Trent Williams. The Indianapolis Colts DL DeForest Buckner, DL Arik Armstead situation. I know we’re talking about 2024, but is that something you can creatively navigate, having both those guys remain on the roster next season?

“Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s a fair question because I understand the line of thinking. You can’t keep everyone, we’re trying to do something special this year and Brandon is going to be a big part of that and beyond as well. And so yes, you always have to think out a few years, but we’re really excited about Brandon. I feel like he made another big step last year, and I think the best is yet to come and so we want him to be a part of it and at some point, yeah, you have to figure things out and I guess we’ll take that as it comes, but as of right now and into the future, we’re really excited about Brandon Aiyuk and where he is at as a pro. The work he’s done to develop as a pro and become one of our core players here.”

The surprising part is the 49ers actively shopped McGlinchey without any media reports, unlike the continuous reports and speculation of a Lance trade or social media rumblings about Aiyuk and a possible trade.

McGlinchey himself detailed the trade discussions after Denver signed him to his massive deal in an article he wrote for ESPN:

“IF YOU’RE PAYING attention — and believe me, I was — it was easy to figure out that I wouldn’t be back with the 49ers after this past season,” McGlinchey wrote. “To be honest, I knew for about a year. They had [left tackle] Trent Williams, making the amount of money that he does [$27.2 million cap figure in 2023], and this is just the way the team has always gone about its business.

“There were no surprises, that’s for sure. [Niners general manager] John Lynch and [coach] Kyle Shanahan kept me updated the whole time, and they were very clear about what was going to happen. But I definitely got a behind-the-curtain look at how the sausage is made in the NFL. After the 2021 season, they both told me, ‘We may even look to move you at some point. We’re projecting into the future, and we think you’re going to get priced out. We want to get something in return.”

Will the 49ers employ a similar strategy with their budding star at receiver? Having top-end, expensive talent forces teams to make tough decisions. It will be interesting to watch this situation play out.

Unfortunately, you can’t pay everyone.