49ers' Brandon Aiyuk pick could cause Aaron Rodgers-Packers divorce

49ers' Brandon Aiyuk pick could cause Aaron Rodgers-Packers divorce

The 49ers were one of the clear winners of the 2020 NFL Draft. Not just for the players they acquired, but also for the domino effect their selection of Brandon Aiyuk might cause, and how it could derail one of the top contenders for the NFC crown.

The Green Bay Packers were one win away from a trip to Super Bowl LIV last year, but they lacked the offensive explosiveness and ingenuity to overcome the vaunted 49ers defense.

So, the Packers entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a clear need at wide receiver, hoping to get Aaron Rodgers another dynamic weapon as his prime comes to a close. With their first-round pick coming at No. 30, the Packers were unlikely to be in play for CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs or Justin Jefferson. But Aiyuk, the fifth likely first-round receiving prospect, was seen as a likely target for the Pack.

When the Philadelphia Eagles surprised many by selecting TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor at No. 21, the door for Aiyuk to tumble to the Packers was opened. Jefferson went at No. 22 to the Minnesota Vikings and the door opened further.

The 49ers were concerned Green Bay wanted Aiyuk, so they vaulted up to get him at No. 25.

The Packers were then left with a choice, one they did not come to the right conclusion on. While a number of talented receivers -- like Michael Pittman, Laviska Shenault and Chase Claypool -- remained available, the Packers elected not to draft for their current championship window, but pivot to their future by trading up to No. 26 to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who now is Rodgers' heir apparent.

All in all, the Packers' draft class was an afront to the art of drafting. With an aging great at quarterback who is known for his prickly nature and grudge-holding nature, the Packers elected to draft zero wide receivers, added a tight end who might play sparingly in 2020 and used their first-round pick on the man who will eventually replace Rodgers.

Trouble on the frozen tundra? Brett Favre, who has been in Rodgers' shoes, thinks so.

“Green Bay’s not going anywhere without Aaron Rodgers in the next few years,” Favre told NBC Sports' Rich Eisen on "The Rich Eisen Show.." “If he plays like we expect him to play, they’ve got a shot with or without a first-round receiver. He’s that good. So, I would do all I could to not burn that bridge, and I don’t think they did that. I think they burned a bridge that’s going to be hard to overcome. At some point, I think it will rear its ugly head.

“Green Bay’s one of (the teams) that should be playing for now,” Favre said. “They don’t draft any weapons, not just in the first round, but any weapons that can help immediately to my knowledge and that just sends a disrespect message to what I would think to Aaron Rodgers. He has every right to be disappointed if he is.”

The 49ers currently are the kings of the NFC, and with the additions of Aiyuk, Javon Kinlaw and the trade for Trent Williams, the ruling class only has become stronger and more entrenched atop the NFL pecking order.

The Packers, along with the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks were seen as the likely candidates to knock off the 49ers during their quest to return from the Super Bowl.

There should be little doubt that if Aiyuk had remained on the board past No. 25, the Packers would have moved up and gotten a weapon for Rodgers to help make the offense more dynamic and give it more big-play ability. He was a top-tier receiver in a loaded class and fit the Packers' need to a tee. The 49ers' move up forced the Packers to rethink their draft plans and, with Love still available, choose to focus on the future first and the present second. That no doubt sent a troubling message to Rodgers who is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

By taking Love, the Packers rocked their own boat and now Favre thinks Rodgers will finish his career in a different uniform.

"My gut tells me no," Favre said. "I don't know this for certain, but I guarantee you, it's got the wheels turning in Aaron's mind. If that's the case, then that means there's a chip on his shoulder toward the organization that otherwise was not there. All he needs is a reason other than this reason to expedite that."

[RELATED: Shanahan details how Williams trade, 49ers' draft plan came together]

General manager John Lynch couldn't have foreseen the ramifications of the Aiyuk pick. He and Shanahan had targeted the long-armed receiver and thought he'd fit perfectly in their offense. They were right. But the addition had the extra benefit of causing the Packers to poison their own well in reaction and perhaps removing a conference challenger from their path.

Not bad for a day's work.

What Myles Garrett's reported new contract means for Nick Bosa, 49ers

What Myles Garrett's reported new contract means for Nick Bosa, 49ers

Nick Bosa got off to a tremendous start to his NFL career, and it came as no surprise when he was named the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Though the award can be viewed as the culmination of one hell of a rookie season, it also points to an extremely bright future for the former No. 2 overall draft pick.

A quick glance at the list of NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year from the past decade suggests that Bosa is just scratching the surface of his dominance. From Von Miller to Luke Kuechly (retired) to Aaron Donald, his older brother Joey and tackling machine Darius Leonard, it's a who's who of the most impactful defensive players in today's game. One phenomenal defensive player not included on that list is Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who likely would have won the award in 2017 had he not missed the first four weeks of the season.

Ever since, Garrett has established himself as possibly the most feared defensive player in the league. He has accumulated 23.5 sacks in 26 games over the last two seasons combined, and figures to terrorize the AFC North for many years to come. That became far more certain Monday when NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that Garrett and the Browns were nearing a historic contract extension, worth $125 million over five years.

Once signed, Garrett would become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL, and would leapfrog Chicago Bears pass-rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack to become the highest-paid defensive player in annual average salary in NFL history.

It's definitely a deserved number, though chances are he won't maintain that status as the top AAV salary among defensive players for long. Each year, new deals are struck, eclipsing those of the season before. Jimmy Garoppolo's contract, for instance, once viewed as an albatross no longer ranks among the top 10 salaries at his position.

If there's any one defensive player who should be most excited by Garrett's pending agreement, it's Bosa. He already is among the very best defensive players in the league, and it won't be long until the 49ers lock him up with his own record-setting extension.

Garrett entered the offseason with two years remaining on his rookie contract (counting the fifth-year option), so that can give you an idea of when a Bosa extension might come. Luckily for San Francisco, that's still a couple of offseasons away. His fifth-year option most certainly will be picked up, so based on the timing of Garrett's extension, we can assume Bosa might get his following the 2021 season.

Why is that lucky for San Francisco? Given the certainty of a massive drop in league revenue for the upcoming 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the salary cap is expected to -- at the very best -- remain flat, with a significant drop far more likely. The recent moves by the Chiefs, signing quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a mind-blowing contract extension and reportedly signing defensive tackle Chris Jones to another huge number -- both of which are considerably backloaded -- suggest that Kansas City expects the salary cap to substantially increase in the near future.

[RELATED: Could 49ers' Kinlaw follow Bosa's footsteps, win DROY?]

Assuming he remains healthy, Bosa will get more than Garrett did. Whatever that number is, it would be tremendously tough for the 49ers to fit that into the current salary cap. But a couple years from now, San Francisco very well could have the resources to pay Bosa, as well as a few other key players due for extensions.

The 49ers just missed out on the opportunity to select Garrett in the 2017 NFL Draft. Two years later, they nabbed Bosa, who just might be better and eventually will be paid like it.

NFL rumors: 49ers interested in signing Jarius Wright in free agency

NFL rumors: 49ers interested in signing Jarius Wright in free agency

Help could be on the way for the 49ers. Receivers Deebo Samuel and Richie James went down to injuries this offseason, and San Francisco reportedly is eyeing a veteran. 

The Athletic's Ben Standig reported Tuesday receiver Jarius Wright is on the 49ers' short list of free agents to sign right now. 

Wright played for the Carolina Panthers last season, finishing with just 28 receptions for 296 receiving yards and no touchdowns. He is an eight-year veteran, though, with plenty of experience under his belt. 

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Samuel (fractured foot) and James (fractured wrist) both are expected to be back before the regular season begins. But that's being optimistic, which doesn't always come to fruition with injuries.

In their absence, players like rookie Brandon Aiyuk and Jalen Hurd will have to step up for the 49ers. The door could even open for seventh-round pick Jauan Jennings

[RELATED: Madden 21 leak reveals top-10 rated 49ers players this year]

The 49ers also should receive a big boost with the healthy return of slot receiver Trent Taylor, who has looked explosive in offseason workouts. Dante Pettis shouldn't be written off quite yet, either.

But coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch very well could want to add a veteran for training camp. Perhaps that's where Wright fits. 

The 49ers believe in their talented, unproven group of young receivers. Still, it never hurts to add experience to the fold.