Reports from ESPN state the San Francisco 49ers are shopping veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who has apparently grown unhappy with his playing time and role.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported some pretty big news Friday afternoon, citing sources indicating the San Francisco 49ers are taking offers for veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
This is pretty big news, especially for the 29-year-old four-time first-team All-Pro — the longest-tenured member of San Francisco’s defense.
San Francisco 49ers
While this might come as something of a surprise, the signs were there the Niners might consider moving on from Bowman sooner rather than later. Earlier this offseason, San Francisco inked free-agent linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year, $26.5 million contract with option years in 2020 and 2021.
Adding to the competition, the Niners also selected standout collegiate linebacker Reuben Foster at the tail end of Round 1 in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Smith (pectoral) ended up on injured reserve before the season began, and Foster is still recovering from an ankle sprain. But all three of these players were essentially competing for two spots. And considering the capital invested in both Smith and Foster, one could see Bowman’s tenure with the team as a bit more tenuous.
NaVorro Bowman Not the Same Player
Fans will recall Bowman is coming off his second serious injury from his NFL career — a torn Achilles suffered early in 2016.
This, combined with the devastating knee injury suffered during the 2014 NFC Championship game, would make a tough hurdle for any player at the pro level. And while Bowman was able to reach the Pro Bowl a year after his first injury, his 2017 campaign has been less than stellar.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bowman has a mediocre 45.0 overall grade on the season — No. 63 out of 86 qualifying linebackers. Additionally, Bowman has six missed tackles through five weeks — uncharacteristic, considering he led the NFL in tackles (116) back in 2015.
It might seem premature, but Bowman appears to be heading towards the wrong trajectory. And considering his age, it’s not like we can attribute this to growing pains or adjustments.
Plus, the Niners inked Bowman to a hefty extension last year, expiring after 2022 when Bowman will be 34 years old.
Reading into this, it makes some sense San Francisco would want to move such a big contract while Bowman’s stock remains relatively high.
Week 5 an Indication?
Bowman saw 58 snaps during the Niners’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 — 76 percent, which is unusual, considering he is typically in on every defensive snap.
It’s possible the move was to light a proverbial fire under Bowman for the rest of the season. But as was the case with former Niners tight end Vance McDonald, San Francisco’s new regime has been pretty forthright with players about their respective roles and situations.
Had this been during the Jim Harbaugh years, possibly, but it seems like less of a possibility now.
The decrease in snap counts in Week 5 could just as much be a sign the 49ers want to see how their defense would respond sans Bowman.
More from Niner Noise
- 49ers 2023 NFL Draft tracker: Pick-by-pick news and analysis
- Predicting 49ers NFL Draft picks by looking at final mocks
- DraftKings NFL Draft Promo – Win $150 Guaranteed on Any $5 Bet
- 2023 NFL Draft: EDGE Byron Young could be impact player for 49ers
- 5 low-key NFL Draft options for 49ers who are flying under the radar
And with Foster slated to return soon, along with Smith’s presence in 2018, San Francisco is in a state where moving Bowman could work.
Whether or not it’s a good idea is another question. Yet we can trace the latest rumors back to specific fact-based incidents that have clearly led to this point.
And that point doesn’t look good for Bowman’s future with the 49ers.
Editor’s update: The 49ers have released Bowman, per a direct report from the team’s website.