Former GM takes Brandon Aiyuk baton by trying to diminish Amon-Ra St. Brown

Brandon Aiyuk and the 49ers appear to be at a contract stalemate, and a former GM has taken the baton for Aiyuk by trying to knock Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As the wide receiver market has boomed this offseason, Brandon Aiyuk naturally would like to get paid handsomely with a contract extension as he enters the final year of his current deal. The San Francisco 49ers profess to want him back, but they clearly don't want to pay him at or near the top of the market for the position. Trade rumors have thus persisted.

The Detroit Lions rewarded Amon-Ra St. Brown with a contract extension that briefly made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL based on per-year average. About a month ago, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported St. Brown's $28 million per year average was the floor for what Aiyuk wants.

"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."

ESPN once had a show called "Numbers Never Lie." In this case, comparing St. Brown and Aiyuk over the last three seasons (St. Brown's career), the numbers do not lie.

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 outdoing St. Brown in yards per catch and yards per target is to be expected, base on the role they play in their team's offenses. But there are legit questions about Aiyuk being able to be a team's No. 1 receiver outside the situation in San Francisco, whereas we know St. Brown can be that guy.

If Aiyuk wants more per year, more guaranteed, etc. than St. Brown got, then no wonder the 49ers are hesitating to meet his price.

Former NFL general manager takes baton for Brandon Aiyuk while trying to knock Amon-Ra St. Brown

Writing for The Athletic (subscription required), former NFL general manager Randy Mueller took a look at "What Really Matters in Brandon Aiyuk's contract negotiations with the 49ers". As a pre-cursor, Matt Barrows, the 49ers' beat writer for The Athletic, offered an endorsement of the piece directly mentioning St. Brown.

Mueller gets to how St. Brown's contract has complicated matters for the 49ers.

"The fly in the ointment for the 49ers is St. Brown’s contract. Most in the NFL would consider Aiyuk a better all-around player than St. Brown, whose deal caused much back-channel conversation within the league. That’s the one bit of leverage Aiyuk has that might have some traction with the 49ers’ brass. Because of that deal alone, they might have to go to $31 million per year."

Mueller goes on to say he expects Aiyuk to sign for "around $30 to $32 million per year" with $50 million fully guaranteed. He thinks a deal will get done before camp, then Aiyuk "can make sure to put St. Brown on his holiday card list." Yes, how dare St. Brown get paid what the market bore and how dare the Lions value him as a core member of their team.

That isn't to say Aiyuk shouldn't get paid. But it's pretty clear the 49ers don't value him the same way the Lions value St. Brown. If they did, a deal would be done by now. Instead, San Francisco extended wide receiver Jauan Jennings and added years to Christian McCaffrey's deal. Aiyuk is also not clearly a "better all-around player than St. Brown", like Mueller tried to say "most in the NFL would consider."

Sometimes teams, agents, etc. have agendas they use the media to advance. A former NFL general manager who still has some connections is an easy vehicle for advancing an agenda during the slow time on the calendar.

St. Brown's $28 million per-year mark, as flimsy as it looks below the surface, has become attached to the Aiyuk conversation as a benchmark he expects to exceed in his own new contract. That's one thing, but any attempt to say Aiyuk is a better player than St. Brown is a step too far.


Next. 3 Detroit Lions who could lose their job to a rookie this year. 3 Detroit Lions who could lose their job to a rookie this year. dark