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ESPN proposes draft-day Aiyuk trade between 49ers, Chargers

In Sports
April 21, 2024

ESPN proposes draft-day Aiyuk trade between 49ers, Chargers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

If the 49ers choose to trade Brandon Aiyuk, could San Francisco net a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft as part of the return package for the star wide receiver?

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell presented a hypothetical trade that would involve sending Aiyuk to former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, while the Los Angeles Chargers would send San Francisco the No. 5 overall selection in the 2024 draft as part of the deal.

Barnwell’s proposed trade would involve a pick swap between the 49ers and the Chargers, with all selections involved in the deal coming from the 2024 draft.

49ers get: No. 5 overall, No. 181 overall
Chargers get: WR Brandon Aiyuk, No. 31 overall, No. 94 overall

“Let’s find a creative way to get two teams what they need,” Barnwell explained. “The Chargers are bereft at wide receiver, and while it was a since-departed front office regime, they just used a first-round pick on wideout Quentin Johnston and didn’t exactly land a building block. While the Chargers had to cut Mike Williams and trade Keenan Allen for cap space, they have more than $100 million in room in 2024, so they can afford to go after more of a sure thing if they remain flexible with the structure of a contract extension.

“Getting Justin Herbert a plug-and-play No. 1 wide receiver in Aiyuk is a move the Chargers would need to consider, even if it meant passing up one of the top wideouts in this class. Aiyuk has had multiple impressive seasons with the 49ers, has grown into the sort of complete player coach Jim Harbaugh would love and just turned 26 in March. He can be great with Herbert right now, and this would be a perfect landing spot for him in terms of a potential quarterback situation. Harbaugh could still go grab an offensive tackle at the bottom of Round 1.”

Barnwell then detailed why this could be an appealing option for the 49ers, who already are paying big money to a handful of star players. Drafting a rookie wideout would give San Francisco a cost-controlled player at the position for the next five seasons, which could prove to be vital with quarterback Brock Purdy in line to receive a massive contract extension in the near future.

“With Brock Purdy about to get much more expensive after 2024 and the 49ers already paying big money to Christian McCaffreyDeebo SamuelGeorge Kittle and Trent Williams, this would be a creative way to save money. Sacrificing Aiyuk would allow them to move all the way up the board and draft his replacement, which could be yards-after-catch playmaker Malik Nabers. Re-signing Aiyuk and trading Samuel might make more sense, but I don’t believe Samuel would command the same sort of return.

“This trade would value Aiyuk as being worth something like the No. 17 pick on the Jimmy Johnson chart, which feels fair in a year in which there are so many talented wideouts available through the draft. If I’m the Chargers, it would be tough to trade for a wideout when I could just stay put and land a potential franchise wide receiver in the top-10. Given Johnston’s rookie flameout and the need to not waste any more of Herbert’s prime, I could see a case for landing a more reliable solution and attempting to plug multiple holes in one draft.”

Aiyuk is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2023 after recording an eye-popping 17.9 yards per reception.

While the 49ers have reiterated their desire to keep Aiyuk in the Bay Area, there is previous precedent for San Francisco moving a star player for a first-round draft pick following the Mar. 2020 trade of DeForest Buckner.

With the draft less than a week away, all eyes will be on the 49ers and Aiyuk until a resolution comes between San Francisco and the 26-year-old wideout.

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