Fred Warner watched closely as teammate George Kittle navigated a contract situation with the 49ers a year ago.
The linebacker paid attention to what transpired between Kittle and the organization, he said on 49ers Talk, not necessarily because he anticipated going through a similar situation a year later.
“I followed that along because I am such good friends with George,” Warner said. “That’s like my brother.”
Kittle, coming off an All-Pro season in 2019, generally was regarded as the best tight end in the game. Just prior to the pads going on at training camp last summer, the sides agreed on a contract to pay Kittle an average of $15 million per season through 2025.
“I did watch closely with how George went throughout the process,” Warner said. “And ultimately they were able to work something out where he became a Niner for a long time. (I) was super happy for him and he earned every bit of it.”
Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, negotiated the contract with the 49ers while Kittle was mindful of his stature within the organization.
A month before Kittle signed his new deal, NBC Sports Bay Area asked him about the possibility of holding out until he gained financial security with a new contract.
“Being a captain, I want to be there for my team and I need to show the right leadership skills,” Kittle said last July.
Warner, 24, also a 49ers team captain, faces a similar scenario this offseason as a young player at the top of his position in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and New York Jets’ C.J. Moseley currently are the top-paid inside linebackers in the game at $18 million and $17 million, respectively, per season.
Warner’s salary is scheduled to jump in 2021 from $844,000 to $3.384 million due to the proven performance escalator. The league’s PPE program rewards players selected in the third through seventh rounds whose contributions exceed their draft slot.
Draft picks are eligible to renegotiate contracts after their third season. And coming off a first-team All-Pro season, Warner is a prime candidate for a lucrative, multi-year contract extension.
Warner said he is leaving all the work to his agent, Justin Schulman of Athletes First, and 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.
“I haven’t really thought too much into what my situation is and what lies (ahead) for me in the future,” Warner said. “I kind of let my agent, and John and Kyle and all of them handle that side of things.
“I’m going to let the cards fall where they may. That’s just not in my hands. That’s something that will ultimately be up to the team.”