49ers’ John Lynch has received calls but ‘wouldn’t anticipate’ trading Brandon Aiyuk


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — John Lynch opened Monday’s pre-draft news conference by indicating he didn’t want to take a lot of questions about Brandon Aiyuk and his contract situation and that he wanted to focus on the draft.

Which, of course, meant that the first six questions were about Aiyuk.

Among them: Has the wide receiver taken part in the offseason program? Are teams interested in trading for him? Have the San Francisco 49ers given permission for his side to seek …

Lynch cut off that last one.

“I’m not going to get into all those details,” he said. “We’re really focused on BA being part of us. He’s under contract and we’re looking forward to that.”

The answers to the others were, no, Aiyuk hasn’t been taking part in the offseason program, which began last week, and, yes, Lynch has been receiving phone calls about Aiyuk.

“We receive calls about a lot of players,” he said.

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Two years ago, for instance, the 49ers got similar calls about Deebo Samuel, who like Aiyuk was heading into the final year of his rookie contract and was eying a big, multiyear extension. During Round 1 of that year’s draft, the 49ers got trade offers from the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. The Jets’ offer included the No. 10 overall pick in exchange for Samuel and a second-round pick.

At that point, the negotiations between Samuel and the 49ers were more contentious, and public, than they currently are between Aiyuk and the team. Both players had stopped following the 49ers on social media — the go-to move for young players to express discontent — but Samuel also had asked for a trade. Aiyuk’s agent recently indicated he and his client have not taken that step.

The Jets’ and Lions’ offers weren’t enough for the 49ers, who declined the overtures. A little more than three months later, the team and Samuel agreed on a three-year extension.

It’s worth noting that the 49ers didn’t do a lot of homework on Round 1 receivers that year, at least not the type of meticulous research a team would do if it expected to draft a wideout to replace Samuel.

It’s been similar this year. The 49ers have taken long looks at receivers expected to be taken in Rounds 2 through 4, but there have been no reported visits by possible first-round picks. Which seems to indicate that, like in 2022, the 49ers don’t envision swapping out a starting receiver with a first-round receiver.

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The final question Lynch received on Monday also was about Aiyuk: Is there any chance the receiver is not on the roster on Friday?

Said Lynch: “I wouldn’t anticipate that.”

Here are some other notes from the general manager’s pre-draft news conference:

• When teams trade back in the draft, they often pick up additional late-round picks to wheel and deal at other points. But Lynch said those late-round picks probably won’t be as valuable this season because so many college players have decided to remain in college due to NIL deals.

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Every fall, for example, the 49ers give draft grades to every prospect they feel has a greater than 50 percent chance of coming out in the upcoming draft. This year 83 of those players decided to stay in school — a high number.

“How that affects this draft is going to be interesting,” he said. “I think the later rounds are probably going to be lacking.”

• That said, the 49ers have first-round grades on 22 prospects this year, which is slightly higher than average. He said this year’s draft class also includes 16 so-called “gold-helmet” players, which is the highest character designation the 49ers give a prospect and is about average for a given year.

Gold-helmet players have to be “exemplary” in a number of areas, including performance, leadership and intelligence. Some recent gold-helmet players: tackle Colton McKivitz (fifth round, 2020), safety Talanoa Hufanga (fifth round, 2021), safety Ji’Ayir Brown (third round, 2023) and tight end Brayden Willis (seventh round, 2023).

“We like keeping that standard high,” Lynch said. “You always want to give out more because our hit rate with those guys is so high. But I think it’s, ‘Let’s stick to our standard,’ because there’s a reason our hit rate’s high.”

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Talanoa Hufanga is among the success stories the 49ers have had with selecting their “gold helmet” prospects. (Kyle Terada / USA Today)

• Lynch said he hasn’t gotten any phone calls from teams interested in moving back into the first round but he expects those to come later this week. A team that passes on a quarterback early in the round, for instance, might be interested in someone like Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

“I think (pick No.) 31 is an interesting spot,” he said. “I think at the end of Day 1 teams are eager to go get someone. So I imagine there will be some calls. … The big thing is to be open for every scenario.”

• The 49ers have been doing a lot of homework on offensive linemen, which Lynch conceded is one of the hardest positions for the 49ers to evaluate. The zone-blocking technique that offensive line coach Chris Foerster teaches not only differs from how most NFL teams block, it’s entirely different from how college offensive lines operate.

“We basically get out and run, and we (tell) our guys — we don’t want any hesitation, we want you going and being the initiators,” Lynch said. “And that’s not a lot of what you see in college football.”

As a result, the 49ers tend to look for traits — such as balance and quickness — when it comes to offensive line prospects. One of the players Foerster examined in the run-up to the draft was Washington offensive tackle Roger Rosengarten, whose 4.92-second 40-yard dash was the fastest among offensive tackles at the combine.

They also have spent extra time with BYU’s Kinglsey Saumataia, Notre Dame’s Blake Fisher and Penn State’s Caedan Wallace, all of whom had good 10-yard splits when running the 40.

• This year’s draft is notable for how many sons of ex-49ers will be available. That includes USC receiver Brenden Rice, Rice receiver Luke McCaffrey, Southern Mississippi running back Frank Gore Jr., Washington State defensive end Ron Stone Jr. and Missouri State receiver Tyrique Owens.

Will one or more end up in a 49ers uniform? Lynch said he’s a firm believer in bloodlines.

“I really do,” he said. “I think there’s evidence that you should (believe).”

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The 49ers had no official “30” visits with any of them, although Owens and Stone were on hand for the 49ers’ local pro day earlier this month. Christian McCaffrey, meanwhile, has been talking up his youngest brother, Luke, to Lynch for the last year.

Lynch noted there are a lot of good genes in this draft.

“And I think that matters,” he said. “It’s exciting that we have all these great players — we’re talking Hall of Famers — and brothers of players. It’s really fun.”

(Top photo of Brandon Aiyuk and John Lynch: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) 





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