Brandon Aiyuk says 49ers ‘don’t want me back’

Brandon Aiyuk has issued another cryptic signal in his contract tug-of-war with the 49ers, five weeks before training camp begins, with or without him.

Aiyuk, who did not attend the team’s mandatory minicamp two weeks ago, posted a TikTok video Monday of his FaceTime chat with Jayden Daniels, a former Arizona State teammate and now the Washington Commanders’ rookie quarterback.

“They said they don’t want me back,” Aiyuk said while sitting on a couch inside a house.

“That’s it?” Daniels responded.

“I swear,” Aiyuk said.

Daniels then let out a shriek of glee (“My boy!”), Aiyuk smiled, and the 49ers’ biggest contract issue this offseason bounced further down an unknown path. More clarity should come in a month, when contract talks historically heat up and when $50,000 daily fines accrue for training camp absences.

Aiyuk captioned the TikTok video: “I’m laughing but I’m crying fr (for real).”

When the 49ers cleaned out their lockers four months ago after their Super Bowl loss, Aiyuk wore sunglasses to help mask his emotions about his unknown future and imminent contract showdown.

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been steadfast all offseason in their desire to keep Aiyuk, the 49ers’ leading receiver the past two seasons. He is under contract for a $14.1 million salary under the fifth-year option of his expiring rookie deal.

When Lynch spoke at the NFL meetings in Florida three months ago, he noted how the 49ers “appreciate the heck out of Brandon and who he is as a player. We want him to be a part of the Niners, so we’re going to work towards making that a reality.” Aiyuk responded with an emoji-filled Instagram story that essentially translated to: “Money talks, B.S. walks.”

Aiyuk’s agent, Ryan Williams, has not commented publicly on the contract talks, other than to dispute a report that Aiyuk requested a trade before April’s NFL Draft. Aiyuk hasn’t shied away, however, from using social media as a loud tool in his contract hunt.

Several other wide receivers around the NFL signed contract extensions this offseason, raising the market rate for top-flight receivers between $25 million annually (see: DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles) and $35 million annually (see: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings).

Aiyuk is coming off his second straight 1,000-yard season for the 49ers, who’ve annually rewarded a homegrown talent with a market-setting contract each of the past four summers. They’re already investing heavily in the receiving corps beyond Aiyuk.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is set to make a team-high $21 million salary this season while carrying the team’s second-biggest salary cap number ($28.6 million). Jauan Jennings signed a two-year, $15 million extension a month ago. Ricky Pearsall, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick, is slotted to earn $12.5 million over four years on a rookie contract he’s yet to sign.

Aiyuk is subject to a $100,000 fine for skipping minicamp over what Shanahan termed “contract stuff,” adding: “We know what the process is, we know what the business part is, and that’s just how they decide how they want to handle this week.”

While the 49ers held their second minicamp practice two weeks ago, Aiyuk posted a social-media video of him catching a long pass on a public park’s youth baseball field. He also recently posted an Instagram story of him in Atlanta, Georgia.

Daniels’ freshman season at Arizona State in 2019 overlapped there with Aiyuk (and Pearsall). Daniels went on to transfer to LSU in 2022, he won the Heisman Trophy last year, and he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Commanders, whose first-year general manager is Adam Peters, formerly the 49ers’ assistant GM. Washington’s receiving corps is led by veteran Terry McLaurin, 2022 first-round pick Jahan Dotson, and rookie Luke McCaffrey, youngest brother of 49ers’ star Christian McCaffrey.

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