How the Fred Warner Extension Impacts the 49ers Salary Cap

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With 49ers training camp less than a week away, the team has locked up one of its blue-chip players for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday morning, they signed Warner to a five-year contract through the 2026 season. The 49ers will pay him $19 million per year with $40.5 million of his contract guaranteed (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter)

In his three seasons, Warner has never missed a game and has become one of the best at his position. This past season with the 49ers struggling, Warner continued his excellent play and eventually earned Pro Bowl and first team All Pro honors.

Warner will finish the 2021 season on his original rookie contract (’21 cap hit of $3.6 million) and then the new deal will start in 2022.

He is now the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL (on an average per year basis) surpassing Seattle’s Bobby Wagner at $18 million per season.

With Indianapolis’ Darius Leonard on the verge of signing a new extension, the 49ers had plenty of incentive to get this deal done sooner rather than later. Good job by them.

The 49ers will (hopefully) structure the deal with quarterback Trey Lance in mind. Currently the 49ers have the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL -- Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance will be much cheaper.

From 2021 to 2024, the 49ers will have one of the lowest-paid starting quarterbacks in the league (Lance), so they need to push the majority of Warner’s money to the 2022 to 2024 seasons. The hope being that Lance will be the starter and Jimmy will be off the 49ers books.

The Chiefs pulled off the same thing when Patrick Mahomes came to Kansas City. They intentionally signed players to deals knowing that they had a window of time to take advantage of the cheap quarterback.

In San Francisco, the 49ers can do the same with their blue-chip players. With guys such as Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel approaching contract extensions, the team needs to be smart with their money.

They have been able to win with high level starters and stars playing on cheap rookie deals. When the team moves on from Garoppolo, it will free up $23.6 million in cap space this season and $25.6 million in 2022. 

With the 49ers now having the highest paid, left tackle, tight end and middle linebacker, getting out of the Garoppolo contract will alleviate some of the cap difficulties. The 49ers will go from having the 28th highest paid linebacker room in the NFL to being much higher on that list.

Can the 49ers be okay with Garoppolo on the cap table this season? Yes, but it would be best if Lance is ready now, not later.