San Francisco 49ers linebacker, Fred Warner, signed a five-year, $95 million deal Wednesday, keeping him in the Bay Area until 2026 as the National Football League’s highest-paid inside linebacker.
Fred Warner Inks Massive Contract
Warner, a former third-round pick out of Brigham Young University, has blossomed into one of the league’s best linebackers. He is not a typical, downhill thumper, but more of a finesse-focused backer that had elite coverage ability for even a cornerback, and he is also one of the most sure-tacklers in football.
Since entering the league in 2018, the 24-year-old has recorded 367 tackles, five forced fumbles, four sacks, and three interceptions, all without missing a game. His consistency and reliability have prompted pundits and fans alike to question whether he is the best linebacker in the league and ahead of people like Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David; his contract is a definite vote of confidence from the 49ers.
Though he has only been in the league for three years, Warner was a star player on San Francisco’s Super Bowl LIV defense that was widely considered to be the best in the league, alongside standout teammates Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman.
The obvious critique of Warner’s new deal is that it is too hefty for a player that has only been in the league for three years and provides little in the way of attacking the quarterback; however, he can be a pillar for the team’s future in a market that, although shrunk during the pandemic, has been growing for a while. His contract will pay itself off if he maintains his level of performance, much less improves it, and sets the team up nicely for the next five years.
Teams have been forced to evolve on defense as offenses are incorporating more space, motion, and speed into their attacks; Warner’s versatility as a ballhawk and coverage specialist makes him extremely unique, though prototypical for the future of the NFL linebacker.
Contract Worth $95 Million
The future is extremely bright in San Francisco; they are only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance in which they had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, though their offense failed to control the time of possession and let them down. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo returning to the fold and Trey Lance available to spell him if he struggles, as well as Nick Bosa and a rebuffed squad complementing Warner, the 49ers could be right back where they were two years ago.
The biggest obstacle on the road ahead for the Niners is their division— they are playing in one of the best two in football, though if pressed, most people are likely to agree that the NFC West is going to be better than the AFC North due to every team being competitive. Sorry, Cincinnati Bengals Fans.
Playing in the NFC West means that Warner will be in charge of containing opposing quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray, three of the most dangerous operators in professional football. The road to the playoffs starts in division rivalries, and the former BYU man will be able to repay his contract by turning in impressive performances in the biggest of moments against these stellar opponents.
Now that Warner is locked up on a multi-year deal, look for the 49ers to be aggressive in re-signing their young talent over the next couple of years while also bringing in veteran free agents that can contribute for one or two years as they push to get back to the Super Bowl.
It may seem like a lot, but Fred Warner is worth every penny of his contract; congratulations, San Francisco, you just got the best inside linebacker in football.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.