Though the San Francisco 49ers' 6-10 campaign of a year ago is likely to be viewed by many as a lost season, linebacker Fred Warner was left standing and found the recognition and appreciation he warranted long before.
While an overwhelming amount of injuries left the Niners depleted, Warner remained as a sensational standard, producing in stellar fashion as he's done throughout his three-year career.
Now, Warner, a former third-round pick, is headed for the final year of his rookie deal and San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan isn't expecting his all-star backer to go anywhere but the bank.
"I want to get it done personally," Shanahan told reporters Tuesday of a Warner extension. "I kind of feel like I'd say the same about him as I did about [TE George] Kittle when we were talking about it [last year]. I just see that kind of as a matter of time. I know he's not going into his free agent year or anything like that, so that's why it's not always on my mind. But, Fred's a guy that I plan on being here forever and who has earned that. I'd be surprised if that doesn't start sooner than later."
Warner wasted no time in establishing himself as a fixture smack dab in the middle of a tenacious 49ers defense as his 2018 rookie campaign saw him start all 16 games and lead the squad in tackles. He's now done that three years running, having started 48 consecutive games to begin his career and averaged 122 tackles per season, leading the Niners each time.
Last year, as healthy bodies were few and far between for San Francisco, Warner had his best season yet -- and the best among inside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus. Warner's 2020 season, in which he had 125 tackles, six passes defended, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, ended with him garnering an 88.6 PFF grade that was tops for his position. Warner racked up his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro bids in the process.
Unsurprisingly, Warner agrees with Shanahan in regard to being in San Francisco forever, but he downplayed any expectation that an extension needed to happen in a hurry.
"Obviously, I want to be a Niner for life, too, right?" Warner said Tuesday. "I know all that stuff will work itself out in due time, and I'm just focused on being the best player I can for this team. That's why I'm here. I'm working with my guys, and we have huge aspirations and goals for this season. I'm really excited about this season that we're going to have."
Warner might get excited about the possibility of being the highest-paid linebacker in the game, which is surely a possibility.
Due to make $3.38 million in base salary in 2021, Warner should find himself getting a gargantuan raise. With Colts star LB Darius Leonard also due for an extension, they could be vying for the top spot among inside backers, which is currently held by the Seahawks'Bobby Wagner at $18 million per season and followed closely behind by the Jets' C.J. Mosley at $17 million per year.
After emerging from 2020 as the game's top inside linebacker, Warner's performance and resume most certainly have him in line to be paid among the top talents in the league.