Fred Warner Jets’ Dream Officially Dead, Spotlight Shifts to Former All-Pro

Fred Warner 49ers

Getty San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner delivering a punishing hit.

The dream of potentially reuniting All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh came to a crashing halt on Wednesday afternoon.

The 24-year old stud signed a record-breaking five-year deal worth north of $95M with 43 percent of the contract guaranteed ($40.5M). This brand new contract now makes him the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL.

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It Was a Nice Thought While It Lasted

Earlier this offseason current ESPN Insider and former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum mentioned the possibility of Warner making it to the open market which piqued the interest of Jets fans around the world.

Gang Green has a clear need at the position and there were so many compelling storylines that tied the San Francisco 49ers star to the green and white:

  • Warner is a BYU alum (hello Zach Wilson).
  • Coach Saleh helped transform the 24-year old from a day two draft selection to an All-Pro player.
  • Plus the Jets have a variety of assets including a ton of moolah (expected to have over $80M in cap space in 2022 when Warner was set to be a free agent).

Despite all of those wonderful factoids, the former Brigham Young star will NOT be making it to unrestricted free agency any time soon.

That means unfortunately the Warner to Jets train was stopped before it ever left the station.

The Spotlight Has Now Shifted Considerably

For a brief time, Jets linebacker CJ Mosley held the crown as the highest-paid linebacker in all of football.

Fast-forward a few months later that prestigious title was taken by Seattle Seahawks superstar Bobby Wagner on a per-year basis ($18M) back in 2019.

That was just smashed by Warner who is set to make $19M per season, but the 49ers stud still trails Mosley in overall guaranteed dollars.

Expectations for Mosley are somewhat all over the place heading into 2021.

Some folks are probably too high expecting him to immediately return to his former All-Pro form. While it’s among the potential outcomes, it seems somewhat unlikely based on age, rust factor, and a brand new defensive scheme.

While on the other side of the coin there are folks who are way too low on him. There were reports earlier this offseason that Gang Green was “open to trading” the stud linebacker. Some fans were okay trading him away for anything of value because they deemed him a lost cause.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

A realistic outcome to expect for Mosley is a return to normalcy. A crawl before you walk kind of mentality. If he can be an average linebacker this upcoming year, that would be a major success.

Anything after that would be gravy.

Part of the reason Jets fans have those massive expectations is the record-breaking contract Mosley signed back in 2019. It was a five-year $85M contract that made him at the time the highest-paid linebacker in football.

When you dole out that kind of cash, it comes with massive expectations. Obviously, he hasn’t lived up to that, and candidly he was unlikely to ever do it.

Mike Maccagnan’s parting gift to the franchise was the Mosley and Le’Veon Bell contracts before Joe Douglas took over a few months later.

While the former Baltimore Ravens star is really talented, the green and white overpaid for him by a significant margin.

Consider this, Kwon Alexander previously held the title as the highest-paid linebacker with a $13.5M average. The Jets reset the linebacker market by paying Mosley $17M per year, a healthy $3.5M more per season than the next highest-paid guy.

Let’s be honest, Dick Butkus couldn’t have lived up to that ridiculous contract.

At this point the money invested is a sunken cost, if you keep that mindset, it’s a lot easier to envision how Mosley can help make an impact in 2021 without worrying about the dollar bills.

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