49ers better extend Fred Warner sooner than later

Linebacker Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Linebacker Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

It would be in the 49ers’ best interests to finalize an extension with All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner before the market at his position goes up.

At some point, preferably sooner than later, the San Francisco 49ers are going to pony up the cash to sign All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner to a lucrative extension.

Perhaps one that completely resets the market for top-paid linebackers.

Warner enters the final season of his rookie contract in 2021, and the fact he wasn’t a first-round NFL Draft pick means the Niners can’t use a fifth-year option on him with fully guaranteed money. According to Over the Cap, Warner is scheduled to earn $3.64 million this season.

Yes, he’s awfully undervalued, at least financially.

So far, there hasn’t been any concern with a holdout in Warner’s first year of extension ability. That’s good news, but it could also change soon. Especially considering San Francisco was one of a handful of teams that actually managed to increase its cap space this offseason, from roughly $11 million entering 2021 to a current $17.66 million before rookie contracts have been inked with recently drafted players, quarterback Trey Lance and offensive guard Aaron Banks.

Still, the 49ers have money to make an extension work. And it might be in their best interest to do so at the earliest opportunity.

49ers want to set a market with Fred Warner, not react to it with the Colts’ Darius Leonard

Currently, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner is the league’s top-paid linebacker with an average annual value on his contract of $18 million. Considering Wagner is 31 years old and Warner is 24 years old, it’s safe to say Warner should command an amount higher than what the aging-but-still-dominant Wagner is making.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Warner and the Niners haven’t kicked off talks about a new contract. But the Indianapolis Colts have started negotiating extension conversations with their two-time All-Pro linebacker, Darius Leonard:

Related Story: Extending Fred Warner will be challenging for 49ers

Warner’s camp could easily be awaiting Leonard’s deal to be completed first, then prompt San Francisco’s front office to offer up a deal potentially worth even more than what the Colts eventually offer.

That could ultimately mean a net increase of perhaps $2 million or even $3 million more per year on an average annual value, cutting into the 49ers cap space in 2022, which OTC currently projects at $9.4 million. This number is likely to increase a lot, particularly with the Niners looking to move injured center Weston Richburg while potentially parting ways with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And it also doesn’t include any carryover in 2021 cap space either.

Still, if San Francisco can capitalize on paying Warner before Leonard, it would be in the team’s best interest to do so quickly.

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