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Aiyuk could be perfect trade option for receiver-thirsty Patriots

Aiyuk could be perfect trade option for receiver-thirsty Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The New England Patriots most definitely are in the market for an “X” wide receiver.

They chased Calvin Ridley in NFL free agency. They made inquiries with the Philadelphia Eagles about the availability of A.J. Brown.

Meanwhile, the money unspent on Ridley is part of the Patriots' $54 million in cap space that remains. That’s the NFL's highest figure by a healthy amount, and while the team will eventually roll some of that into 2025 (the Patriots were 31st and 27th in the NFL in cap money rolled over the past two seasons, with $1.119 million into the 2023 cap and $529,000 into this year’s cap), they need to spend to the 89 percent cap “floor” this year which is just over $200 million of the $225 million cap.

If the Patriots stick and pick a quarterback at No. 3 – which is the overwhelming likelihood unless Minnesota blows them away – their next pick is No. 34. That pick would likely be the carrot they can dangle in front of a team like San Francisco, home to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

Aiyuk, a second-team All-Pro in 2023 after a 75-catch, 1,342 yard season, wants a new deal. The 49ers have bills to pay all over their talented roster. Aiyuk is the most likely target for the Patriots based on their need, what they can offer, the cap space available and the Niners’ willingness to entertain offers.

On Tuesday, Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Based on what I’m hearing from knowledgeable sources inside the building, and from high-ranking personnel executives and coaches around the league, don’t rule out a deal that would send Brock Purdy’s favorite target to another team.”

Silver said there might not be “clarity” on the 49ers’ intentions with Aiyuk until they are on the clock or on Friday. While general manager John Lynch stated publicly an Aiyuk deal isn’t anticipated, Silver said the team has back-channeled discussions with other teams to gauge interest. San Francisco's asking price is a 2024 first-round draft pick, per Silver, but another GM said a 2024 second-rounder might get it done.

Silver added that, “Such a deal might become more enticing to Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan if that pick were near the start of the second round and packaged with another selection — say, a 2025 third-rounder.”

The No. 34 pick certainly would qualify. As for a 2025 third-rounder? That seems a reasonable enough price to pay for a Patriots team that otherwise would be conceivably looking at the sixth- or seventh-best wideout in this year’s receiver-stacked draft.

Any deal the Patriots make needs to be contingent on their being sure they can sign Aiyuk to a long-term contract.

Per his personal wide receiver coach, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Aiyuk doesn’t want to leave the 49ers.

"He just wants to get paid. Just very simple. He wants to be rewarded for the work that he has put in," Houshmandzadeh said.

Houshmandzadeh was asked on 95.7 The Game's "Willard and Dibs" show what Aiyuk would want in light of Ridley’s four-year, $92 million contract that the Patriots deemed was too much.

Houshmandzadeh replied with $27 million per year, adding, "It's the cost of doing business in the National Football League now. This is what it is. The salary cap increases, the players' salaries increase. That's just what it is. So when you have good players, and John Lynch, pat yourself on the back, Kyle Shanahan, pat yourself on the back. You guys have done a really good job drafting, for the most part, you draft good players. You pay them.”

The key for the 49ers is who they draft at No. 31. Will they get a wideout who makes it easier for them to move on from Aiyuk? If they do go receiver, that will be the tell that Aiyuk is very available.

For what it’s worth, one Patriots wideout was very open this week about wanting to see Aiyuk come to New England. Kendrick Bourne, who played in San Francisco with Aiyuk, told Khari Thompson of Boston.com:

“I want Aiyuk," Bourne said. "He’s my guy, and I think he’ll fit in. Just being a one-on-one receiver at X. He can take a whole half of the field and dominate and create a lot of attention for himself. That’s big in our offense, the X receiver?”

Yes. Correct. Yes, it is.

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