Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

John Lynch expects to keep Fred Warner, calls linebacker a ‘big part of the fabric’ of the 49ers

Jan 4, 2021 at 3:08 PM--

San Francisco 49ers fans started to get a little worried last year as the season drew closer and All-Pro tight end George Kittle still didn't have a contract extension. That all got resolved around mid-August, though.

Could the 49ers be facing a similar challenge with linebacker Fred Warner, who is preparing to enter the final year of his rookie deal? Obviously, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan would prefer to lock up their young defensive star for the foreseeable future, and they expect that to happen.

That doesn't mean extending Warner will be easy. The 49ers will need to reward the linebacker financially while juggling the complexities of a shrinking salary cap.

"We talk about challenges, and those challenges are there," Lynch told reporters on Monday. "But really, with guys like that, I see opportunity. I mean, those are guys we brought in here, and they've become terrific players. So, first and foremost, they earn everything they're going to get, and when you watch a guy like Fred operate -- he won a couple of the big (team) awards, the Len Eshmont and the Bill Walsh -- prestigious. When you walk by that wall and see the names that have won that, and the history of this place, that means a lot.

"But I think to Fred, Kyle talks a lot about intentional practice, I don't know that a player represents that better across the league. Everything you see him do on the field, he works at. He's become incredible at punching the ball out. Every day at practice, he's doing it so much that I fear he's going to break his hand. But you see it translate on the field."

Warner didn't really sound appreciative of being asked about his contract status after Sunday's game, laughing at the question before responding.

"I'm going to let all that stuff sort itself out," Warner said while still smiling. "I have no idea what's to come and whatnot [but] thanks for the question, though."

Warner has led the 49ers in tackles during each of his three NFL seasons. He's a home-grown player who Lynch and Shanahan know is an important part of the defense, just as Kittle is on offense.

"Fred, we liked him coming in," Lynch continued. "I can tell you that it's one of the good stories when he's exceeded every expectation we've had of him when he came in here, and we had high expectations. So, we'll take that when it comes. Fred's a special leader, a special player, and a big part of the fabric of this team. And I see that as an opportunity, and we'll find a way to keep him here."

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