One of the NFL's best young linebackers is getting paid accordingly.
Fred Warner has agreed to a five-year extension with the San Francisco 49ers, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. The extension is worth more than $95 million, with $40.5 million in guarantees, per Garafolo, making Warner the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league.
The 49ers have since confirmed Warner's contract extension.
"We're extremely excited to have completed a long-term contract extension with Fred prior to the start of training camp," general manager John Lynch said in a statement. "Fred brings the type of leadership and energy every day that our defense and team feeds off. He earned this extension through hard work, discipline, and the professional way he goes about his business. We look forward to watching him continue to play at an elite level for us well into the future. Now it's time to go to work."
The extension was to be expected, especially after Warner made his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in 2020. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said in May an extension was simply "a matter of time," and more importantly said Warner is "a guy that I plan on being here forever and who has earned that."
Those who disagree with such a lavish contract likely haven't been watching the 49ers much in the last year or so. Warner has led the 49ers in tackles in each of his three professional seasons and has averaged 122 tackles per season. He finished with the highest Pro Football Focus grade of anyone in the NFL at his position in 2020.
The supporting evidence doesn't end there, either. In a rare feat that proved his excellence in all areas of the defensive game, Warner cracked our top 10 coverage defenders list for the 2020 season, with Next Gen Stats vaulting him up to fourth. He's the only linebacker in the group, posting advanced metrics production that put him ahead of the majority of the league's best defensive backs in coverage -- and Warner plays a position that requires him to effectively stop the run on any given down, too.
No one shut down expected completions at a higher rate than Warner did in 2020, finishing with the best catch rate allowed below expectation of any defender since 2017 at -16.5 percent. In simple terms, Warner made an unexpected play to deny an on-target pass at a rate higher than any defender in the NFL. Oh, and he also recorded 13 quarterback pressures on 93 pass rushes, adding another feather to his cap.
The next generation of linebackers has a few very promising faces at the front of the group. Colts linebacker Darius Leonard is one of them, and is expected to fetch a deal that will be even more lucrative than Warner's, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. But make no mistake: Warner is one of the select few defining the future of the position, and he'll be in the Bay Area for the prime of his career.