49ers' wide receiver seems to think he's better than Amon-Ra St. Brown

The 49ers have not gotten a deal done with Brandon Aiyuk yet, and now we pretty much know why.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Now matter where his career goes from here, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk will have a special place in Detroit Lions' lore based on a fortuitous bounce off Kindle Vildor's facemask in the NFC Championship Game. Even he knew it was phenomenal luck.

Aiyuk has also been a productive player for San Francisco, topping 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons with at least 75 catches in both campaigns. He finished top-10 in the league in receiving yards last year (1,342), and was a Second Team All-Pro.

Aiyuk is also moving toward a new contract, set to play out his fifth-year option this year. Trade rumors have been around him all offseason, but 49ers general manager John Lynch has said all the expected things about (not) trading him or getting him signed to a multi-year deal. Aiyuk, as expected, did not show up for voluntary OTAs this past week. His only leverage is to not show up, until the team can fine him for not showing up.

It's automatic that Aiyuk is looking to make a lot of money in his second contract, and no one should begrudge him for that. But the latest news takes that to a different level.

Brandon Aiyuk seems to think he's better than Amon-Ra St. Brown

The Lions made Amon-Ra St. Brown, by reported per year average, the highest-paid wide receiver in the league the day before April's draft. That status lasted a day, when A.J. Brown usurped him. And we learned St. Brown's new contract is not quite all it was initially reported to be.

Looming new deals for Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and CeeDee Lamb will push the top of the wide receiver deal higher still. Aiyuk is not in the class, and he/his agent apparently realizes it.

On Friday's edition of "NFL Live", ESPN's Jeremy Fowler talked about Aiyuk's contract situation.

"I was told the benchmark here is Amon-Ra St. Brown," Fowler said. "He got $28 million a year on a four-year from Detroit. The goal appears to be to try to beat that. He doesn't have to be the highest paid in the league, but he's done enough and he's accomplished enough in that offense to where he is probably going to need to be at that number or higher."

St. Brown indeed got $28 million per year, over the first three years of his new deal. Aiyuk seems to think he deserves more.

Over the last three seasons, spanning St. Brown's career, let's see what Aiyuk and St. Brown have done.

Aiyuk: 209 receptions, 3,183 yards, 20 touchdowns, 69 percent catch rate; 15.2 yards per catch, 10.5 yards per target
St. Brown: 315 receptions, 3,588 yards, 21 touchdowns; 73.4 percent catch rate; 11.4 yards per catch, 8.4 yards per target

Aiyuk has been better in some categories, while St. Brown has been better in others, with usage/route tree differences in mind. So let's call it a statistical wash.

A question with Aiyuk, which would be best shown if he ends up elsewhere, is how much being what amounts to an ancillary piece of a very good 49ers' offense helps him. Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel are the prominent engines of that offense, and command the most attention from opposing defenses.

On the other hand St. Brown, however those who don't pay complete attention may want to pigeonhole him a certain way, has shown himself to be the No. 1 receiver in one of the best offenses in the NFL over the last couple seasons.

The 49ers may not want to give Aiyuk a contract that surpasses St. Brown's in per year value-however that can be taken down to brass tacks and scrutinized. They have options, from trading him to letting him walk next March, with some things in-between that could push things toward him staying or leaving. Aiyuk can incur fines for not coming to mandatory minicamp and/or training camp this summer, which would deplete the $14.1 million he's set make on the fifth-year option.

On thing is absolutely clear. If Aiyuk gets a contract that exceeds the $28 million per year St. Brown got, let alone matches it, it will prove to be an overpay.

Next. 5 Detroit Lions players who are next up for a contract extension. 5 Detroit Lions players who are next up for a contract extension. dark