NFL Analysis


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5 Trade Destinations For San Francisco 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk

Sep 10, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) gestures at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Things are starting to get ugly for the San Francisco 49ers and Brandon Aiyuk. While the 49ers are adamant that they don’t want to trade their star receiver, Aiyuk has been getting more frustrated by the day that he hasn’t received a long-term deal. The 49ers selected Ricky Pearsall in Round 1, and it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before they move on from Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel.

If contract negotiations continue to stall and it becomes apparent the 49ers will trade Aiyuk, where is the best possible landing spot for him? And which teams might be willing to meet the 49ers' high demands? Here are five teams worth watching in the Aiyuk sweepstakes!

Brandon Aiyuk Trade Landing Spots

New England Patriots

No team has more cap space ($44 million) than the New England Patriots. So, giving Aiyuk the deal that he wants wouldn’t be an issue. The Patriots could make Aiyuk the second-highest-paid receiver in the league behind only Justin Jefferson, and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The Patriots also have a major need at receiver as they’ve lacked a No. 1 target for years. The hope is that Ja’Lynn Polk, Javon Baker, and Tyquan Thornton can step up in 2024, but none of those players project as No. 1 options.

Aiyuk would immediately be the top target in the offense, giving Drake Maye a fantastic weapon in the passing game. The Patriots might not want to surrender their 2025 first-round pick, but multiple Day 2 picks and/or players make sense.

At some point, the Patriots will need to be aggressive in putting adequate weapons around Maye. Why not do it now with one of the best route runners in the league and a player that fits New England’s offense well?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin walks the field before the game against the Buffalo Bills in a 2024 AFC wild card game at Highmark Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been trying to will this marriage into existence for the past few months, and it’s not hard to understand why. The Steelers traded away Diontae Johnson this offseason and never adequately replaced him. They did draft Roman Wilson in Round 3, but he is more of a pure slot receiver than an “X” who can create separation against man coverage.

Pittsburgh does have George Pickens, who is heading into Year 3. While the 2023 season was a nice improvement for him, some maturity concerns might scare Pittsburgh off from giving him a long-term deal. However, the Steelers are in win-now mode, and Mike Tomlin needs his team to have some success in the postseason after seven consecutive years without a playoff win.

Adding Aiyuk would help make their offense more explosive and give them a bonafide No. 1 receiver for whoever is at quarterback. The Steelers have been aggressive in pursuing Aiyuk and are probably the most likely team to land the former first-round pick from Arizona State.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are in a weird spot with their wide receiver room. Courtland Sutton is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, but the Broncos don’t appear to be in a rush to extend him. They traded away Jerry Jeudy for a late-round pick, and Marvin Mims was effectively benched at the end of the 2023 season.

Denver has several nice role players at receiver, including Mims and rookie Troy Franklin, but none project as a bonafide No. 1 option. With lackluster tight end play, the Broncos need a player that can handle 130+ targets in a season.

Bo Nix is the presumed starter in Denver, and now is the time to build up the roster around him. Sean Payton is known for his aggressiveness and could easily design an offense around Nix’s quick release and Aiyuk’s route running.

While this might not be the best fit for Aiyuk in terms of quarterback play, playing with an elite offensive-minded coach and on an offense with so many vacant targets has to be appealing for Aiyuk.

Washington Commanders

If Aiyuk could pick his next team, the Washington Commanders would be at the top of his list. Jayden Daniels was his quarterback during their time together at Arizona State, and Dan Quinn is a coach players love to play for due to his infectious attitude.

The Commanders have a No. 1 receiver in Terry McLaurin, but Aiyuk’s game would mesh well with him, and their skills don’t overlap.

With Kliff Kingsbury running the offense, they are expected to be a wide-open passing attack with three or four receivers on the field at all times. That means there would be plenty of targets and opportunities for both players.

The Commanders have the second-most cap space in the NFL, and it appears they would welcome a potential trade. Pairing Daniels and Aiyuk together would be a lot of fun, and it would be fascinating to see if Washington can pull it off.

New York Jets

Of all the teams mentioned, this one is probably the most unrealistic. But it does make sense, as the New York Jets are all in for the 2024 season. With Aaron Rodgers turning 41 this season and in the final year of his deal, the Jets must make their run in 2024. If they don’t, Rodgers, Robert Saleh, and Joe Douglas will all be gone in 2025.

The Jets did upgrade their No. 2 receiver position this offseason, adding Mike Williams in free agency and selecting Malachi Corley in Round 2. But Williams is coming off a torn ACL, and Corley is more of a gadget player than an every-down receiver. Could the Jets take a big swing on Aiyuk and pair him with Garrett Wilson to create arguably the league's best wide receiver duo?

New York doesn’t have the cap space to get a deal done right now, but they can easily free up some money with a few restructures. If the Jets are really all-in for this season, why not go out and get the best receiver available and make the offense even more explosive?

It might seem like overkill, but with such a small window, it's not be a bad idea to consider.