The 2020 NFL season was unforgettable for the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries dashed the team’s hopes for the Super Bowl when the Niners failed to make the playoffs after winning the NFC in 2019.
It wasn’t all downfall for the franchise, however. One player who has made great strides and caught the attention of the NFL is middle linebacker Fred Warner. The 24-year-old was named the AP first-team all-pro for his efforts.
The Niners took Warner with them in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. From 4-12 in his rookie season to the Super Bowl in 2019, he has seen ups and downs in his short time with last year’s injury-riddled season in the league.
It was a breakout season for Warner. He finished with 125 tackles (five for one loss), seven QB hits, two interceptions, and one sack. Warner’s cover skills are on another level. Pro Football Focus gave him a coverage rating of 91.1, which is the top of all linebackers in the league.
He only gave up 4.4 yards per target and opposing QBs had a rating of 69.7 when they threw in Warner’s direction. That’s a huge improvement over the 91.8 QBs QBs had when they chased Warner in the passing game during his rookie year.
Warner’s position manager last season, Dameco Ryans, will be San Francisco’s defensive coordinator for the next season after Robert Saleh took over as head coach for the New York Jets. The 49ers defense will have a ton of returning players. General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan have signed freelance agents Jaquiski Tartt and Jason Verrett to one-year contracts and will deploy most of the defense that dominated 2019.
Due to its standout play, Warner’s cap hit will rise from $ 844,000 to just over $ 3.3 million due to the league’s proven performance escalator program. The NFL rewards players selected in the third round or later if their performance exceeds their draft positioning.
Warner has spent three years in the league and is now qualified for a lucrative extension.
The five highest paid inside linebackers in the NFL are;
Bobby Wagner ($ 18 million AAV)
CJ Mosley ($ 17 million AAV)
Zach Cunningham ($ 14.5 million AAV)
Myles Jack ($ 14.25 million AAV)
Deion Jones ($ 14.25 million AAV)
Given his game, Warner should stand in line to be in the top three. The Niners have done a great job this off-season in increasing the flexibility of the canopy in the future. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he hopes the stadiums will be at full capacity next season, which will improve the league’s bottom line and, in turn, give teams more money to work.
When the stadiums are full, the 2022 campaign wage cap should rise again, which will give Lynch more headroom for Warner’s extension. The NFL’s new TV deals begin with the 2023 campaign, which will also help. The 49ers will have tight end George Kittle’s massive extension that takes up a little more space. Kittle’s cap hit is set to surge from just over $ 5.4 million in 2021 to $ 16.1 million in 2022.
Pass rusher Nick Bosa will also be eligible for overtime after next season and given how dominant he is, the Niners will have to break the bank to keep him.
The 49ers have Paraag Marathe as their salary cap guru and hope he can use his magic to keep Warner and Bosa on.
How much do you think Warner’s next contract will be worth? Will he be the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL?