Lions trade rumors: Brandon Aiyuk emerging as late target before deadline?

The Detroit Lions are in the market for a wide receiver and Brandon Aiyuk needs a change of scenery, so there could be match in the stretch run before the trade deadline.

The Detroit Lions have had Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown (before Week 7) emerge in a thin wide receiver corps. Last week Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported they are looking to add a wide receiver. There are certainly some options out there, good, bad or otherwise.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes is not going to easily part with premium draft capital to get a wide receiver before next Tuesday’s trade deadline. Buying low on someone who has fallen out of favor is surely somewhat of a focus, with a late Day 2 or Day 3 draft pick the ideal cost.

The San Francisco 49ers traded up to get Brandon Aiyuk in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. During a six-game run last season. stretching from Week 7-15 with two games missed due to COVID-19 in the midst of the stretch, he had 45 catches (on 69 targets) for 568 yards and four touchdowns as a primary passing game weapon for San Francisco.

So far in 2021, things have changed dramatically.

Is Brandon Aiyuk a possible trade target for the Lions?

A report emerged after training camp suggesting Aiyuk had some work to do in terms of “still learning how to be a pro”, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying he had to be “a lot better than the guy behind him (who is nominally Trent Sherfield) while suggesting a hamstring injury late in the preseason had put Aiyuk behind the curve.

The 49ers are now six games into their season. On Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, Aiyuk totaled one catch for six yards on one target. He continued to play a lot (40 snaps-71 percent share), he just can’t get involved in a pass offense that lacks weapons (or a consistently capable quarterback to deliver the ball to all of any said weapons, but that’s another conversation).

Shanahan’s leash as a high-end offensive mind who knows how to get the most out of players is getting shorter. Aiyuk can’t seem to emerge from his doghouse, and a muffed punt Sunday night (albeit in rough weather) that he was bailed out on by the rulebook won’t help. Shanahan suggesting he needs to “start grinding” reeks of strained coach-speak. If that’s the case, why has he played more than 70 percent of the snaps in three of the last four games? If Aiyuk isn’t doing what he needs to do during the practice week, etc., then don’t play him as much even if the other options are lackluster.

Shanahan has given Aiyuk no leash to make mistakes, while Deebo Samuel had a fumble Sunday night and was not immediately exiled to the bench. Aiyuk would surely welcome a change of scenery. Shanahan might be in the ear of 49ers general manager John Lynch about listening to any trade offers that may come, or suggesting proactively shopping him.

An acquiring team would get Aiyuk for the rest of this season, and up to three years beyond since he was a first-round pick with a fifth-year option that can be exercised.

As Holmes possibly looks to acquire a wide receiver in the next week-plus, Aiyuk should be on his radar now if he wasn’t already. The 49ers might take whatever they can get for him at this point (a bag of footballs?), but a conditional late-round pick–based on playing time, production, etc.–should get it done.