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Mike Silver assesses whether 49ers will have to choose between Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Deebo Samuel declared his 2022 campaign was “awful” in “every aspect,” and revealed he came into camp out of shape.

He vowed never to put on tape what he showed last season. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Brandon Aiyuk, had a career year, crossing the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time.

Aiyuk said he’s about to “take off,” while cornerback Deommodore Lenoir said Aiyuk will be a top-five receiver this season.

If Aiyuk continues his upward trajectory, might the 49ers have a decision to make between him and Deebo Samuel?

Mike Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks it’s possible, though the cap is malleable:

I’m not one of these crazy cap naysayers who’s always like, ‘You gotta cut this guy.’

You can fit a lot of people in especially when you have a rookie quarterback and if Purdy is healthy, it gives you a lot of options.

But I also do understand the reality is that you know you pay Kittle, you pay Juszczyk, you pay Trent Williams, you pay a bunch of guys on defense, are you going to pay two wide receivers after this year? You may you may, but you also may not.

You have one guy who says he’s ready to take off, the other guy’s saying I will never put that on tape again, I was awful. It’s quite possible they’re competing for some of the same money

He did offer an alternative, but it may involve jettisoning another offensive lynchpin:

[The cap] is usually an excuse, but it is true that if you’re paying a bunch of people top of market even with a rookie quarterback at some point you have to choose which people those are…

I will put it this way. I can’t see a scenario where Aiyuk, Deebo and Kittle are all making top of market or near top of market in 2024. But you could probably, if you choose the two receivers, try to finesse it and go cheap at tight end, for example.

Aiyuk has a cap hit just shy of $4 million this season, but that will increase to $14.1 million with his fifth-year option next season. An extension would likely lower that number.

Samuel, meanwhile, is due a $28.57 million cap hit next season. A trade, per OverTheCap, would save the 49ers just $6.78 million next season, or $21.92 million if conducted after June 1.

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