Brandon Aiyuk on Monday sent various corners of the internet where 49ers fans reside into a tizzy with a simple Instagram post. The All-Pro wide receiver posted to his story a set of emojis that translated roughly to “money talks, defecation from some kind of horned bovine creature walks.”

The only thing keeping this from being a textbook play from a player negotiating a contract is that it wasn’t quite cryptic enough. The message was loud and clear (and not particularly groundbreaking): Aiyuk wants to get paid.

(Screenshot via IG/@brandonaiyuk)

Aiyuk’s desire to achieve the proverbial bag this offseason isn’t a secret. It’s not a secret any time an ascending All-Pro player is due for his second NFL contract. The post from Aiyuk is a typical move to negotiate as best as possible through the public. He can control the discourse with a couple taps on his phone since general manager John Lynch is going to say all the right things publicly about how they’re working toward a deal and they want Aiyuk around long-term. He’ll also say things like the 49ers are okay with letting Aiyuk play out his fifth-year option.


While Lynch does that, Aiyuk can whip fans into a frenzy to try and apply some kind of external pressure on the 49ers.

That’s the extent of the damage he can do with a social media post though. The 49ers front office didn’t see Aiyuk’s IG story and have some kind of revelation that they may need to pay him top-five WR money. There have been zero points since the start of the 2023 season when that hasn’t been the case. He was stellar in 2022 and backed it up with an even better 2023. There are a million reasons they’ll want to keep him in the building.

We can expect more of this kind of thing going forward if other players contract negotiations are instructive at all. At some point there’ll be another social media post from Aiyuk or someone close to him indicating he’s on his way out. There will be teams and people followed and unfollowed on social media. Photos and posts will be deleted. There might even be a public trade demand in there.

None of these public negotiation tactics will ultimately matter because none of it is out of the ordinary. We’ve seen it time and time again, and it doesn’t alter the 49ers’ course of negotiations at all. Just like Lynch saying all the right things won’t change Aiyuk’s course of negotiation. What will matter is what’s going on behind closed doors.

It’s clear the 49ers want to keep Aiyuk, but they’ll have a price point. Whether Aiyuk’s price point falls at or below where the 49ers are willing to go remains to be seen. Those negotiations are certainly underway on some level, but they’ve likely not begun in earnest.

There are two deadlines, one hard and one soft. The hard deadline is the 2024 NFL draft which starts on Thursday, April 25. If San Francisco is going to trade Aiyuk it’s likely they’d want to do so by Day 1 of the draft to ensure they’re maximizing their return in a way that will help them this season.

The soft deadline is the start of training camp. The 49ers have typically done business in a way that sees long-term extensions get done either just before or early on in training camp. We saw defensive end Nick Bosa take his negotiations on a new contract up to the first week of the regular season, but that hasn’t been the usual timeline for San Francisco and its star players.

It’s unlikely there’s a smooth path to the conclusion of the Aiyuk saga. Regardless of how it ends there are going to be twists and turns. While we don’t know how this all will end, we do know it’s not going to turn either direction based on an either cryptic or not-so-cryptic social media post.


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