Fred Warner is worth every penny 49ers gave him

Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers gave linebacker Fred Warner a five-year, $95 million contract that reset the market. Niner Noise explains why he is worth every penny.

Contracts and contract extensions in the NFL are perhaps the most unique of any sport. Because of a hard cap, partially guaranteed contracts, and no max contract limit, any player could be conceivably paid any amount any year. The guiding principle of contracts then becomes a keyword every football fan has heard at least once: positional value.

This buzzword means a lot when it comes to contracts. It’s why a second-tier edge rusher might be paid as much as a top-tier guard, or why no matter what, tight ends will be paid less than wide receivers. Positional value becomes the guideline for how to shape contracts for players.

Sometimes, though, players come along who fundamentally break the mold of what their position can do, and as a result, they get paid beyond the boundaries of their position.

The San Francisco 49ers went through a similar situation with George Kittle, where they ended up paying him more than any tight end, but still less than the top-tier receivers. This breakdown illustrates how the Niners ended up still getting a discount with that contract.

Now, the same thing has come up with Fred Warner, the All-Pro middle linebacker the 49ers drafted out of the third round in 2018.

Durable and consistently improving every year in the NFL, Warner made a clear case as to why he is the best off-ball linebacker in the NFL. But traditionally, off-ball linebackers have been severely undervalued on defenses, making Warner’s $19 million a year annual average value on his new contract stick out like a sore thumb.

While this might be true for any old middle linebacker, Warner is different. His transcendence and makeup justify this contract for him, regardless of position.

Let’s see how.