49ers GM Sounds off on Contract Plans for WR Tabbed ‘Priority No. 1’ - Sport News

49ers GM Sounds off on Contract Plans for WR Tabbed ‘Priority No. 1’

When it comes to offseason priorities here as winter turns to spring, the 49ers’ Jauan Jennings does not often come up as near the top of the list. But perhaps he should. He was the team’s No. 3 receiver, but played a vital role as a blocker and, in the biggest moments, as a pass-catcher.

49ers' Jauan Jennings is a restricted free agent

Remember, it was Jennings who caught the fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Brock Purdy in the Super Bowl that gave the 49ers the lead. That was emblematic because Jennings was at his best in the playoffs, when he caught 10 passes, on just 13 targets.

49ers insider Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area said that, ahead of addressing the offensive line, the defensive backfield or even star receiver Brandon Aiyuk, keeping Jennings—a restricted free agent—should be the 49ers’ top goal.

“I think he’s a very important guy. I would put him as priority No. 1 for the 49ers to make sure he’s back on this team next season,” Maiocco said on the “49ers Talk” podcast.

49ers Jauan Jennings Shined in the Playoffs

During the season, Jennings was used in limited doses. He had just 19 catches and 265 yards in 13 games, both of which were the fewest of this three-year career, which began when he was drafted in the seventh round by the 49ers out of Tennessee in 2021.

But he showed the impact he can have when he shined during the playoffs, and now, the 49ers must decide how to keep him. Ideally, they could work out a moderate long-term extension, but they could put a tender on him to fend off other teams from signing Jennings.

A second-round tender would cost the 49ers almost $5 million for 2024.

“We’ve got an idea of what we are going to do,” Lynch told Bay Area reporters, per NBC Sports. “Jauan is really important to what we do, and he continues to show that. If the tender is the vehicle to keep him around for another year — I think we are also interested in extending him out.”

Of course, that all depends how much money Jennings is seeking. And he is surely paying attention to what happens with Aiyuk—if Aiyuk leaves, Jennings will get a chance to put up much more eye-catching numbers in the regular season.

“There may be an opportunity to [work out an extension],” Lynch said. “You just have to see where that goes and if we can come to an agreement there.”

Brandon Aiyuk Situation Has Bearing on WR Future

There’s no telling what will happen with Aiyuk yet, though, and Jennings’ situation figures to be settled before Aiyuk’s. The 49ers would get another receiver if they traded Aiyuk, but Jennings’ offensive role would still surely grow.

Aiyuk racked up 1,342 yards on just 75 catches last year, and his 17.9 yards per catch was No. 2 in the NFL. He formed what seemed to be a strong chemistry with quarterback Brock Purdy throughout the season, especially with the team’s other top receiver, Deebo Samuel, hurt for two games and parts of others. Jennings started those games.

Aiyuk is, technically, under contract on his fifth-year option next season, at $14 million. The 49ers could attempt to bring him into next season on that deal, but there is just about a 100% chance he would hold out for a new deal. Spotrac projects Aiyuk for a contract at $23 million per year, and expects him to warrant an extension of four years and $92 million.

Unless they clear space and commit to a long-term Aiyuk extension, the 49ers’ most likely path is a trade.

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