Fred Warner absolutely must come out as the 49ers’ latest, highly paid linebacker. Which would be a welcome change.
Malcolm Smith, Ruben Foster and Kwon Alexander certainly weren’t there for them after this current regime, in 2017, ’18 and ’19 respectively.
Warner’s first three seasons earned him not only a raise but a market-setting salary among linebackers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported that he has agreed to a five-year, $95 million contract extension with a guarantee of $40.5 million.
Warner and all 49 players will report for the training camp on July 27.
He is the prototype of a modern-day linebacker, as opposed to the old-school version of him known for punishing hits when looser rules allowed him.
He has range, he is comfortable, he is intelligent, he is a definite tackler and he is a systematically developed captain. He’s channeling 49ers predecessors Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman over the above crop of this current 49ers brass overpaid washout.
Warner arrived in 2018 as a third-round draft pick – as well as clever insurance for Foster, who proved unreliable on and off the field.
“All-Pro Fred” became a groundbreaking nickname given to him by teammates, until it became a de facto honor last season, when injuries crippled defenders (and offensive stars) around Warner. .
So where does he go from here? He is now being paid like a pro bowler, and is an exemplary pro on and off the BYU product field.
“Overall, I want to differentiate myself, as a game-changer, by being able to attack the football, work on my tackle in the box, get my feet on the ground and in and out of the brakes. Working on my bursts,” Warner replied in May asking where he should improve. “The small details are what really matter now.”
His relationship with Demeco Ryans is significant this season, who takes the role of defensive coordinator after three years as linebackers’ coach.
Ryans played four seasons before landing a healthy contract extension (6 years, $48 million) as the 2006 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as a Houston Texans linebacker. He tore his left Achilles in the ensuing 2010 season, and after tearing his right Achilles in 2014 as the Philadelphia Eagles leader, his 10-year career was soon completed.
“Me and Meek, we’ve been through a lot together in a very short amount of time,” Warner said two months ago.
Warner’s durability is ideal – and so rare among recent 49ers teams – so far.
He has started every game since debuting as the second starting linebacker alongside Brock Coyle in the 2018 opener in Minnesota.
“He’s the first guy to break the mess. He’s the first guy on the field. You love to watch it,” tough end George Kittel said at the OTA.
— George Kittle (@gkittle46) 21 July 2021
Kittel was the domestic recipient of a massive contract extension last summer. He and Warner are his draft gems. More could come.
One could be Dre Greenlaw, Warner’s sidekick and the 49ers’ best linebacker tandem since Willis-Bowman. “Big Play Dre” is also on the rise. And Warner is a big part of it.
“We have huge aspirations and goals for this season. I’m really excited about what we’re going to do this season,” Warner added in May.
The 49ers, despite the low salary range, managed to massage their roster to the tune of not only signing Warner before camp, but excelled in free agency, where he played left tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszyk and defensive back. Back re-signed Jason. Verrett, Ke’Vaughn Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and Jacquishy Tart.
Warner’s annual average of $19 million is the highest among NFL linebackers, surpassing the $18 million per year mark of Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks.