Grade the trade: Chargers cash in on Brandon Aiyuk-49ers impasse in mock deal

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Brandon Aiyuk is one of the most talked about players in the league right now. Aiyuk and the San Francisco 49ers cannot come to terms on a contract extension, which has opened the door for the talented young receiver to be traded. Without a true No. 1 wide receiver, the LA Chargers are an interesting team that could benefit a lot from adding Aiyuk.

The Chargers parted ways with both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams this offseason for salary cap reasons. Despite this, the Bolts have the cap space to absorb Aiyuk's salary in 2024, as well as the space to offer him an extension.

According to Over The Cap, the Chargers have $26.6 million in effective cap space with Aiyuk's cap hit coming in at $14.1 million. Los Angeles has $50.8 million in projected cap space in 2025 and $164.2 million in 2026, so there is room long-term to ink Aiyuk to the extension he wants.

The rising star is projected to get a similar contract to Jaylen Waddle, who signed a three-year, $84.75 million deal with $76 million guaranteed. If Aiyuk's new contract followed the same structure, his cap hits would be $33.8 million next year, $37.2 million in 2025 and $9.1 million in 2026. Los Angeles can afford that and if the team wants to take a swing at Aiyuk, here is what a deal could look like.

aiyuk deal

Chargers grade for proposed Brandon Aiyuk trade: A

If any team is going to convince the 49ers to trade Aiyuk before the season it is going to take some kind of first-round draft capital. Aiyuk is a step below the wide receivers who have been traded for an outright first in the past, so throwing a conditional first at San Francisco seems fair.

These conditions can range from Aiyuk's performance to where the Chargers end up in the draft. This is a new practice NFL teams are using to mimic how the NBA protects picks. If Aiyuk (or the team) hits these benchmarks then the 49ers will get a first. If not, they will get a second-round pick in 2024.

The Chargers would need to throw another valuable pick in the deal. Instead of trading a third in 2025, it would be smarter to smooth out the return by trading a 2026 second-round pick. Throw in Quentin Johnston as a project for Kyle Shanahan to develop and the 49ers are getting a fair return for someone who may leave after this season in free agency.

This would give the Chargers a legitimate WR1 not just in 2024, but in the immediate future. Aiyuk is still only 26 years old so he has at least four more prime years in him and he has only gotten better with time. The former Arizona State wide receiver hauled in 75 catches for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns last season. As the true No. 1 receiver in LA, Aiyuk's numbers could balloon even more.

This is not a pressing trade the Chargers have to make. There is nothing wrong with the Bolts slow-playing the wide receiver market, seeing what they have in 2024, and signing a free agent next offseason if that is what it takes.

But if Jim Harbaugh thinks his team is a legitimate contender in 2024 then it would behoove the entire organization to add a young, dynamic receiver.