I wanted to raise a subject that most of us might not want to face, but something that's going to have to be dealt with eventually: the contract of NaVorro Bowman. If I had my way, Bowman would be locked up as a 49er lifer right next to tackling mate Patrick Willis -- these two guys are the nucleus of the 49ers defense. And with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks on the outside, I've predicted this is the next legendary linebacking corps in NFL history.
In 2012, Bowman will be entering his 3rd NFL season and 2nd as a starter. Bowman led the league's No. 1 defense in tackles in 2011 with 143. He was a carbon copy of Willis and was named an AP All-Pro inside linebacker alongside No. 52.
Bowman is currently playing out his rookie deal. As a third round pick from Penn State, Bowman is entering the third year of his 4-year $2.49M contract. Bowman's contract is set to expire after the 2013 season, and he's already upped his value tenfold. Bowman could instantly start at inside linebacker for any team in the NFL, whether they run a 3-4 or a 4-3 or Tampa 2 or whatever.
If he were to hit the free agent market, he would demand a very lucrative deal from a team that was looking to upgrade their defense overall. We already saw this past free agency that teams were eager to poach 49ers players after their 13-3 season that ended in the NFC Championship.
Bowman has struck up quite a chemistry with the defense, and especially Willis. He's great at hitting the holes the defensive line makes for him and is a great overall player. I could see Bowman wanting to stay with the 49ers because after his college troubles, his draft stock dropped but it was San Francisco who believed in him; that goes a long way with a lot of players.
I'm not saying Bowman would play for free, but it's possible to keep great linebacking corps together. The 49ers also have a few wildcards: Jim Harbaugh's winning mentality, Trent Baalke's persuasiveness and Paraag Marathe's deal-making ability. The 49ers would love for Bowman to be a lifer; let's just hope that when the time comes, they get it done.
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