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PFF thinks NaVorro Bowman has one of the worst ILB contracts

Pro Football Focus is not a fan of NaVorro Bowman’s contract, entirely because he was not fully back to pre-injury form. If he improves on last year, I could see an extension in his future.

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Earlier today, we looked at what Pro Football Focus had to say about the contract of San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams. They listed it among their five best interior defensive lineman contracts. They seemed to ignore his ankle issues, which was the impetus for a relatively inexpensive one-year deal. If he can stay healthy this year, he could be in line for that 5-year, $27.5 million deal he was previously set to sign. But if he cannot stay healthy, we might be left with a guy playing year-to-year.

PFF followed that up with a look at the best and worst contracts among inside linebackers. They have decided that NaVorro Bowman’s contract is among the worst in the league among ILBs. Here’s what they had to say about Bowman’s contract:

Bowman returned from injury last year after missing the entire 2014 season, but wasn’t quite the same player he was in 2013. Against the run he was still a dominant, however; his 50 run stops were second-most for inside linebackers. Part of what made Bowman an All-Pro in the past was his play in coverage, but the 49er wasn’t anywhere close to as good in coverage in 2015 as he had been in the past. From 2011 to 2013, he averaged six passes defended per year, but only had one in 2015. His 9.3 yards per catch allowed was a career-high. His 604 receiving yards allowed was fifth-most for all linebackers. He also recorded a career-high 19 missed tackles. With the NFL being more of a passing game, a linebacker’s coverage skills are more important than ever, and Bowman wasn’t as successful there as he used to be.

Bowman is getting paid like a top-four linebacker over each of the next three years. If his play in coverage can improve to what it used to be, he deserves that contract. It’s certainly possible that he can achieve those levels, but if he can’t, he will be making several million more than he’s worth. It’s unlikely the 49ers give up on Bowman anytime soon due to his past play and good performance against the run, but if he can’t rebound in 2016 or 2017, he can easily be cut in 2018 when his cap hit is north of $10 million.

Bowman took some time to get going in his first season back from his knee injury, but by the end of the year, he was clearly making progress toward pre-injury form. He may never fully reach that point, but at 28 years of age, age is not a huge issue for him.

Bowman is signed through 2018, and his salary, bonuses, and overall cap hits are as follows. That is followed by a table listing out cap savings if released before and after June 1 for each of the remaining seasons on his contract.

Year Base $ Bonuses Cap
Prorated Roster
2016 $5,850,000 $2,954,000 $750,000 $9,554,000
2017 $6,750,000 $1,454,000 $750,000 $8,954,000
2018 $8,700,000 $654,000 $750,000 $10,104,000
Year Pre-June 1 cut Post-June 1 cut
2016 N/A $6,600,000
2017 $6,846,000 $7,500,000
2018 $9,450,000 $9,450,000

They will not be cutting him this year, and it is hard to see them cutting him next year, even if he does not show improvement from last year. The final year is certainly a possibility, but we could also see a contract extension before he reaches the final year of his deal. Cap space is not a concern at this point, but that could mean it makes more sense to take advantage of the space for an earlier bump. If Bowman shows improvement this year from last year, I would not be at all surprised to see the two sides agree to a contract extension.