49ers’ Fred Warner Sounds Off on Possibly Losing $4 Million Teammate

Fred Warner

Getty Fred Warner celebrates a defensive stop on January 22, 2023 in Santa Clara.

Fred Warner is facing the offseason possibility of losing a “Fred Warner” type next to him, as he called it.

Fellow San Francisco 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is facing the inevitability of leaving the Bay Area, as his near $4 million deal is set to expire and will allow him to enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent come March 15.

At 25, plus with showing flashes of being a 100-tackle caliber ‘backer and creating some game-changing moments, Al-Shaair was still considered overshadowed by the All-Pro Warner — hence why Warner told KNBR on Thursday, February 2 that he wants his fellow linebacker to go to a place where he can be the top LB.

“I want him to go be somewhere where he can be the guy,” Warner said. “For as long as he’s here, unfortunately, I’m here. He wants to go be the Fred Warner somewhere else. Not to toot my own horn, but he certainly wants to go be the guy. And I want that for him. He deserves it. He’s capable of it.”

Al-Shaair Breaks Silence on His Future

Al-Shaair, meanwhile, used this analogy to describe his first four seasons in the league with the 49ers: Walking away with a cap and gown.

“It almost feels like you’re graduating college again,” Al-Shaair said via KNBR. “That’s literally how I feel. I’ve been here for four years and I’ve had a great time here and grown as a player, as a man, a person. And now you’re graduating.”

With that, Al-Shaair is aware that his time in the Bay Area is trekking toward its closure.

“Going on to the next step, next phase in my life, so definitely grateful for all the memories I’ve got here, but excited for the future too,” Al-Shaair said.

In his four seasons, Al-Shaair went on to play in 56 games with 31 starts — including the season-best 13 starts he was given in 2021. That season witnessed his career-high 102 tackles and 58 solo stops. He additionally added nine tackles for a loss which became another career-best.

This past season Al-Shaair had lesser game action (12 contests) and fewer starts (nine). By virtue of his diluted playing time, Al-Shaair collected 44 tackles, 20 solo stops but did recover a fumble.

Either way, Al-Shaair could command plenty of attention for linebacker needy teams.

Potential Fits for Al-Shaair

If this marks the end for Al-Shaair, there are destinations where he can potentially thrive and be on a defense that can use his closing speed and nose for the ball. Teams that come to mind are:

Houston Texans: Pretty obvious since his now former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is officially there. But regardless, Ryans will likely need a defender to show the Texans how his style and defense works. Al-Shaair could form a tandem with lead LB Christian Kirksey, who needs help on the outside. This could be a place where Al-Shaair can become a leader.

Miami Dolphins: With Ex-49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now in place and three Dolphin outside linebackers becoming unrestricted free agents including Melvin Ingram, this looks like an ideal place for Al-Shaair to step into…and rejoin all those former 49ers in South Beach from head coach Mike McDaniel to the backfield duo of Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have five free agent linebackers including leading tackler Alex Anzalone. With visions of taking the next step to a playoff berth, head coach Dan Campbell and his crew could use someone who’s been to two NFC title games.

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