The San Francisco 49ers have re-signed four-time All-Pro Inside Linebacker NaVorro Bowman to a four-year extension on top of his existing three-year contract. If Bowman reaches the end of his deal, he will make $77 million off of it, and will be 34 years old. If Bowman sees the end of this contract, it likely means that he plays his whole career in San Francisco. However, the 49ers built in outs to the deal, given that only $20 million of it is guaranteed. This is similar to the Colin Kaepernick six-year, $126 million contract that can turn into vapor at any time.
Last season, Bowman returned from missing the entirety of the 2014 campaign with ruptures of his ACL and MCL from the 2013 NFC Championship Game. While Bowman clearly was missing a step early in the season, he progressed well. He clearly impressed the 49ers’ brass enough last season to convince them that he was back, or at least a reasonable approximation of NaVorro Bowman was back. However, the low guaranteed money also shows that the 49ers are hedging their bets in case there are long-term issues with Bowman’s knee that cause him health and productivity issues down the line.
In his return, last season, Bowman’s coverage skills were lacking (likely due to being rusty from missing a whole year) and he failed to perform well on blitzes. Still, the 49ers’ new face of the franchise led the NFL in tackles which meant his instincts and run defense were still intact. Also intact was Bowman’s pre-game motivation and in-game leadership, leadership that was sorely needed as the franchise came crashing down around the players.
This signing is good news for the 49ers franchise, who have been left missing a true face of the franchise in the wake of numerous retirements, off-field transgressions, and the Colin Kaepernick regression. This contract gives the team a bankable star for the foreseeable future with a fan base that previously gathered behind an uber-talented linebacker in Patrick Willis. If Bowman returns to his pre-2014 form, this contract could end up being a steal as the cap continues to rise. Even if he is only his 2015 form, that was good enough to make the All-Pro team for the fourth time in his career.
Extending Bowman to the future sends a message to the fan base of stability, which was needed in the current unstable climate of the franchise. It gives them a centerpiece player both on and off the field and guarantees that as long as the 49ers want him, they will have a player in Bowman that should go down in the annals of 49ers all-timers.