The San Francisco 49ers cut one of their best players even though he is under contract until 2022.
The 49ers tried to move NaVorro Bowman, a four-time AP All-Pro before cutting him. The team signed Bowman to a four-year extension in 2016, locking him into the team until 2022. It appears they regret that decision.
It is no secret that Bowman has been the best player on the 49ers roster and one of the best players in the league while healthy. He has three Pro Bowls, is a four-time All-Pro, and has been on the NFL Top 100 four times.
The key is him staying healthy. He missed the entire 2014 NFL season after suffering a brutal leg injury in the 2013 NFC Championship game. He had a great year in 2015 but only played four games in 2016.
The 49ers then drafted star linebacker Reuben Foster from Alabama in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The 49ers kept both linebackers around and they are glad they did. Reuben Foster went down with a leg injury in the season opener.
According to ESPN, Bowman has not been happy with his playing time so far this season. With Foster in the wings and getting closer to playing full time, Bowman wants out of the organization. The 49ers have granted that request.
According to Ian Rapoport, Bowman’s agent sent letters to every other team asking them to seek a trade. Teams tried, but ultimately, San Francisco ended up releasing the talented linebacker. Rapoport cites Bowman’s injury history and large base salary as barriers to the trade.
Bowman will now be free to sign with any team he so chooses. He will likely take a pay cut, but Bowman will be able to play for a contender again. He will also be able to control his own future, rather than be locked into a rebuilding team until he retires.
While this is a little shocking, it is not the strangest thing to see a rebuilding team ship out aging assets in favor of developing young players. Still, the 29-year-old linebacker should have something left in the tank and is a brilliant leader. The 49ers are making a hard choice that could certainly come back to bite them.