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49ers GM John Lynch wants to lock up WR Brandon Aiyuk with a long-term deal

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said locking up star receiver Brandon Aiyuk with a long-term extension is one of the team's priorities this offseason.

Aiyuk is set to play on the fifth-year option worth $14.1 million this season but reaching an extension this offseason could lower the immediate salary cap hit and lock in one of the team's best offensive players.

“He served us very well as a franchise,” Lynch said Tuesday at the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. "I think we’ve got a nice track record of extending the players that are important to us and Brandon’s a guy we want to keep around for a long time.”

Lynch was less definitive about Aiyuk's long-term future with the franchise when he talked at a season-ending news conference two days after losing the Super Bowl. Lynch said then that Aiyuk's potential contract was part of “one big puzzle” as the Niners tried to navigate a tricky salary cap situation with several stars already playing on lucrative contracts.

The Niners got some help when the salary cap for 2024 came in at $255.4 million, more than $10 million than had been expected.

San Francisco is still above the projected cap, but can easily make moves to get under it before the start of the league year in March.

“I think that was a welcome sight that the cap was going up,” Lynch said. “I think the thing you have to understand, it went up for everyone. So, it’s not like unique to our team, but we have some challenges. We have a lot of good players, a lot of good players who we’ve rewarded.”

The Niners have already handed out big deals to keep veterans such as Trent Williams, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, George Kittle and Arik Armstead.

Quarterback Brock Purdy will count only $1 million against the salary cap in 2024 because he is unable to renegotiate his seventh-round rookie deal until after next season. But San Francisco will have to budget for a big deal down the road for Purdy.

Aiyuk is coming off his best season with 75 catches for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns to earn second-team All-Pro honors. He was targeted only 105 times in San Francisco's deep offense and had the highest yards per target (12.8) of any receiver with at least 40 catches last season.

“Brandon’s one that we think incredibly highly of, one of my favorite just guys around our building, the way he approaches the game,” Lynch said. “He’s a competitor. He’s a warrior. He plays with such a physicality, also with a grace, the way some of the positions his body can get into. And then he’s got a flare for making plays when it matters most.”

NOTES: The 49ers announced two promotions in the front office after losing assistant GM Adam Peters to Washington earlier this offseason. Tariq Ahmad was promoted from director of college scouting to director of player personnel. RJ Gillen has been promoted from director of pro personnel to director of player personnel.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Josh Dubow, The Associated Press