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What does Ricky Pearsall pick mean for Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and 49ers WRs?

The 49ers’ wide receiver questions were one of the biggest story lines heading into the NFL draft. WR Brandon Aiyuk doesn’t have an extension yet and trade speculation has surrounded him all offseason. Then reports surfaced in the hours before the draft that the 49ers were also taking calls about WR Deebo Samuel.

While neither player was dealt during the first round, San Francisco only exacerbated questions about the futures of both players when they selected Florida WR Ricky Pearsall with the 31st overall pick.

However, it’s unlikely the Pearsall pick changes much in the near term.

Let’s start with Aiyuk. Matt Barrows of the Athletic reported during the draft that San Francisco was looking for, at the latest, a mid-first-round pick for Aiyuk. That would appear to take an Aiyuk trade off the table, paving the way for the typical summer-long negotiations that bleed into the start of training camp before the two sides agree on a deal.

For the 49ers to move Aiyuk during this year’s draft would take a pretty steep departure from the stance Barrows reported the team was taking on a trade for their All-Pro receiver. Since they could conceivably lower his $14 million cap hit this year by extending him, the 49ers are on track to comfortably afford keeping him around for the foreseeable future.

As for Samuel, the story is a little different. The 49ers could still conceivably deal Samuel if they’re not set on getting a Round 1 choice for him, although based on the pre-draft reporting it sounded like he’d only be involved if a team was willing to part with a first-round pick for him. Dealing him this year would cost San Francisco around $21.7 million in dead cap money while saving just $6.9 million this season.

If Samuel is going to leave San Francisco it would appear the greater odds are that it happens next offseason when his dead cap number falls to $15 million with $9.1 million in savings. And this is where Pearsall comes in.

The 49ers selected Pearsall with the future in mind. This was also a route the team was going to need to take in this year’s draft given where they stood financially. There’s a needle to thread between being competitive in 2024 while also ensuring they’re keeping the cupboard stocked for 2025 and beyond when some of their older players and more expensive players age out or hit the end of their contracts.

Pearsall could certainly contribute in 2024 as a No. 3 or 4 receiver and punt returner. Head coach Kyle Shanahan lauded his ability to play anywhere on the field which should open some doors for him to get on the field in Year 1. The 49ers have a very good top three in their receiving corps with Aiyuk, Samuel and Jauan Jennings. Beyond that there aren’t many sure things though.

By taking Pearsall the 49ers have shored up their depth short-term while drafting a potential long-term WR2. Threading that present/future needle was the goal of the Pearsall pick more than finding an immediate replacement for one of their top two receivers.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire