June 21, 2024

It’s hard to argue against the assertion that the San Francisco 49ers boasted the top linebacking duo in 2023. While the Baltimore Ravens also fielded a formidable unit, their standout linebacker carried much of the workload.

Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner formed a dynamic tandem that excelled in all facets of the game throughout the season. Greenlaw’s impressive 13 tackles for loss outpaced Warner’s nine, but Warner showcased his versatility with four forced fumbles and impactful pass rushing. Additionally, Warner demonstrated his coverage skills with four interceptions.

However, quantifying Greenlaw’s impact on the field and his significance to the defense is challenging. This was particularly evident in the Super Bowl, where his absence due to a torn Achilles injury highlighted his importance. If Greenlaw isn’t ready for the start of the upcoming season, the 49ers may need to seek a temporary replacement.

As of now, Warner, along with a few Day 3 rookies from last year and Curtis Robinson, are set to return in 2024, alongside Greenlaw if he’s available.

If we delve into the 49ers’ linebacker salaries, Fred Warner commands a significant $24.4 million cap number, followed by Dre Greenlaw at $9.6 million. Curtis Robinson’s salary sits at $1.05 million, while Dee Winters and Jalen Graham earn $948,333 and $934,446, respectively. With Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles hitting free agency, it’s likely that Graham and Winters will fill their roster spots.

Considering Robinson’s lack of opportunities thus far, it’s uncertain if the 49ers view him as a viable starter. Similarly, placing expectations on Winters or Graham, who didn’t contribute in 2023, may be unrealistic.

The upcoming draft class isn’t considered particularly strong in terms of linebackers, so if Dee Winters or Jalen Graham can contribute on special teams or in a rotational LB3 role, that would be considered a positive outcome. However, if Dre Greenlaw isn’t ready to start the season, the 49ers may need to explore free agency for additional options.

Former 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is coming off a successful season with the Tennessee Titans. With the Titans undergoing organizational changes and the appeal of returning to the Bay Area, the 49ers could potentially lure him back. However, the challenge lies in determining Al-Shaair’s market value and whether the 49ers can match offers from other teams.

Jerome Baker, recently released by the Miami Dolphins, presents another option. While he was in the final year of a lucrative contract, Baker is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, suggesting potential flexibility in negotiations.

Bobby Wagner, a free agent with ties to Nick Sorensen and the recently hired K.J. Wright, could also be on the 49ers’ radar. Wagner’s familiarity with the scheme and potential affordability make him an intriguing option for San Francisco.

Considering these factors, a reunion between Sorensen, Wright, or Warner and the 49ers could be plausible during free agency.

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