Fred Warner celebrates a tackle during the 2020 season. (AP Photo)

Former Cougar Fred Warner becomes NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker

Former BYU football player Fred Warner signed a five-year, $95 million contract extension with the San Fransisco 49ers on Wednesday, making him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker.

A three-year starter at BYU, Warner was drafted in the third round by the 49ers in 2018 and quickly established himself as one of the league’s elite defenders. He racked up over 118 tackles in each of his first three seasons, ranking seventh in the NFL over that span, along with 15 pass breakups and three interceptions. He was named First-Team All-Pro this past year and helped San Fransisco reach Super Bowl LIV in 2020, where he intercepted Kansas City Chiefs MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Warner’s deal comes with $40.5 million in guaranteed money, the most ever for a former BYU player. For comparison, fellow Cougar alumnus and inside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a two-time Super Bowl champion, signed a four-year, $51 million deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2020 with $30 million guaranteed. Even former BYU quarterback and second overall pick Zach Wilson’s contract pales in comparison to Warner’s, as the Deseret News projects his rookie deal with the New York Jets to hover around $35 million guaranteed once he signs.

Warner is set to make an average annual salary of $19 million, the most for a Cougar since the Detroit Lions paid defensive end Ezekiel Ansah $17 million in 2018.

Several BYU teammates congratulated Warner on the new deal, including Van Noy, who tweeted, “Very proud of you bro! My man deserves all of that.”

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