Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Some scenarios, some side effects to Evans getting a mega deal.

The San Francisco 49ers are dealing with their own wide receiver drama, but on Friday, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported that Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans plans to test free agency. While the Buccaneers aren’t ruled out, Evans wants to take a look at what the wide, wide world of 31 other NFL teams needing one of the best receivers in the league would look like.

Yes, that Mike Evans. It seemed like this was inevitable when a deal couldn’t get finished by Evans’ own September 9, 2023 deadline.

So what does this have to do with the San Francisco 49ers? Well first of all, if you want the 49ers to sign him, then wave bye-bye to Brandon Aiyuk at some point. You aren’t getting both (yes, in theory they could for one year, but would make little sense from a cap and talent standpoint). Evans could work in the Kyle Shanahan system, well, he’s Mike Evans, he works in any system. If in that system, it makes little sense to have Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (who the 49ers going to use restricted free agency tender at-worst and get a contract extension at-best), and Mike Evans.

So here’s the first scenario; Say the 49ers do sign Mike Evans, that makes Aiyuk from a “maybe” to an “everyone and their mother knows he’s on the block” trade target. The 49ers are on the hook for Aiyuk’s fifth year option, but they have had enough issues feeding the playmakers they have the ball. Since many teams that would lose these prophetic Evans sweepstakes may be interested in a wide receiver, they may pivot to the 49ers with a package deal to get Aiyuk and give him the extension. The 49ers are stuck paying the expensive salary Mike Evans would desire, but they’d get a package of picks as they moved Aiyuk.

While everyone knows if Evans was signed, the 49ers would want to move on from Aiyuk, they also would want to have any leverage they can to keep other teams out of the bidding war. Aiyuk is one of those players that teams would give draft capitol up, even if he has just one year left. It probably doesn’t happen. The only way the 49ers were to even consider this is if Aiyuk made it very clear in private he was not open to return and would refuse any offers to stay in San Francisco. Beyond speculation and overanalyzing we have not heard this from him directly.

Where this really hits the 49ers in reality is the money. While Evans likely won’t make his way to San Francisco due to wide receiver corps already on the roster, he also couldn’t make it there due to the money he commands. The 49ers give money to their homegrown draft picks minus a DeForest Buckner. Mike Evan’s last contract was five years for a total of $82.5 million and some are speculating he’s going to get $30 million a year. The 49ers can’t afford that, not when they have other contracts coming up and Brock Purdy is going to want to stop having the salary of a paper boy.

So why would that hit the 49ers? Because that Evans contract could be a barometer in the Aiyuk negotiations. There’s been no word on Aiyuk wanting to be the top-paid, market resetting wide receiver, but he can definitely use that as a comparison to see where his offer stands. Spotrac has projected Aiyuk’s contract to be somewhere in the $23 million neighborhood. Once Evans signs that deal, things get more expensive, as Kyle pointed out back in November.

So what else to look for? Well, while many outside of the Kansas City Chiefs fanbase wouldn’t want to see the Chiefs get any better, it would be an absolute dagger to the 49ers to see Brandon Aiyuk there after they lost two Super Bowls to the AFC juggernaut. I’m reading a lot (from KC fans) about how the Chiefs are going to go get Evans with some magic salary cap room. Good, as long as that keeps them out of any Aiyuk deals (if there’s disaster) then that’s fine. Good luck, KC.

All signs point to the 49ers getting a deal done, provided Aiyuk wants to stay (and there’s been nothing to indicate otherwise besides blowing social media out of proportion) and the 49ers can get something worked out. It’s not a guarantee on anything and this saga is far from over.

Overall though, and as I’m sure you’ll say in the comments, nothing here is really going to pertain to the 49ers directly outside of the barometer of money. Aiyuk and Evans are two different scenarios and the 49ers aren’t getting him. Keep an eye on where he goes and the contract, however. That is important because that will give us a good idea of how much more expensive Aiyuk’s deal may be. If the 49ers can’t get a deal done this year, Aiyuk is only going to get more expensive.

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