NFL

Niners make Fred Warner the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker

By Sports Desk July 21, 2021

The San Francisco 49ers have signed Fred Warner to a five-year extension to make him the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker, reflecting his status as arguably the premier player at his position.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Niners inked Warner to a deal worth $95million including $40.5m guaranteed at signing.

The contract will keep him with San Francisco through the 2026 season.

It follows a 2020 campaign in which Warner was an ever-present for a Niners team decimated by injury and enjoyed a stellar campaign that saw him named as a first-team All-Pro.

San Francisco, having seen three opt out before the start of the season, had 40 players placed on either the injured reserve, physically unable to perform, or reserve/COVID-19 list over the course of last term.

It left them ill-equipped to make a return trip to the Super Bowl having suffered an agonising late 31-20 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 season, but individually it was an outstanding year for Warner.

Renowned for having the athleticism to cover wide receivers as well as running backs and tight ends, Warner's adjusted open percentage, which measures how frequently an opposing pass-catcher gets open against a defender's coverage and is adjusted based on position, was 24.60, putting him fifth among all inside linebackers in 2020 according to Stats Perform data.

He allowed a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup against a defender on plays when they are targeted regardless of whether the pass is caught, on 41.7 per cent of his targets, with that burn percentage the seventh-best among linebackers with at least 250 coverage snaps.

Illustrating his all-round impact in affecting the pass game, Warner's pressure rate of 33.3 per cent was tied sixth among linebackers with at least 20 pass-rush snaps.

A third-round pick in 2018, Warner has registered 21 pass breakups since entering the NFL, with that tally tied eighth among all linebackers in that period.

His efforts last year helped the Niners stay in the top five in the NFL in opponent yards per play (5.05) and yards per game (314.4) allowed in 2020 despite their raft of injuries.

With his future decided and San Francisco getting healthy on both sides of the ball having kept the core of one of the deeper rosters in the league intact before drafting quarterback Trey Lance this offseason, Warner will hope to play an integral role in making sure the Niners are a perennial playoff contender this decade.

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