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Why did the 49ers sign NaVorro Bowman to a contract extension?

The San Francisco 49ers surprised us when they signed NaVorro Bowman to a contract extension while he still had three years remaining on his deal.

The San Francisco 49ers have signed linebacker NaVorro Bowman to a four-year contract extension that will lock him up through 2022. There is a lot to chew on with this extension. Bowman last signed a contract extension in 2012, which signed him through 2018. He restructured the deal in 2014, and still had three seasons left on his deal. Ed Werder had the most interesting fact about the extension:

The 49ers have a good working relationship with Drew Rosenhaus, but this is certainly notable. So the question becomes, why did the 49ers do this extension now? I certainly don’t know exactly why, but I thought I’d roll out several possible reasons. If you have any other ideas on the why for this extension, let us know in the comments.

Cap space

The 49ers have a ton of cap space for the near future. Trent Baalke said the team would spend money, and do some extensions, this was quicker than I think a lot of us expected. That being said, if they are comfortable with where Bowman stands heading into the coming season, they might as well use that space to get an extension done. If they’re comfortable with his knee, they’d eventually have to pay.

There is also the minimum cash spending rule, which requires teams spend X amount of cash from 2013-2016 and then against from 2017-2020. Any signing bonus on this deal would apply to the 2013-2016 period. I was under the impression the team was going to exceed that number, but we don’t know for certain. My guess is this extension is not related to that, but we’ll see what the timing of the guarantees show us.

Knee improvement

And so, about that knee. Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in January 2014. He sat out the 2014 season, and then returned for the 2015 season. He was a bit rusty out of the gate, but as the season moved along, we saw Bowman improve. Last year, there were reports of how long it took for Bowman to get ready with the recovering knee. This offseason, he said things are significantly improved. The consensus last season was that his coverage work was a struggle for him. If the knee is improved, that would potentially mean improvement in coverage. And with that, Bowman could very well return to his consistent pre-injury level. This extension is about as strong a statement as I can imagine the 49ers making about NaVorro Bowman’s knee.


The 49ers are in the midst of a rebuilding project. They have talent, but a lot of question marks heading into 2016 and beyond. Bowman is getting paid well with this deal, but it also shows a player willing to continue his leadership role and try to get this franchise turned around. Locking him up for potentially the rest of his career (or pretty close) locks up a franchise leader on the defensive side of the ball.

Raising contract bar

Matt Maiocco raised a good point:

The 49ers have a whole lot of cap space, but as has been previously discussed, the team does not like to throw their salary structure out of whack with huge deals for new players. Maybe this puts them in a position to mess around with that a little bit more next spring.

Throwing the fans a bone

Time for a possible cynical reason. The 49ers have low expectations this season, and fans are pretty pissed off. I don’t think Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe would sign a player just to make fans happy, but this certainly throws them a bone. Bowman wasn’t going anywhere, but it’s a little something positive for the fans. I’d say this is more just a side benefit, but I couldn’t help but snicker a little about a cynical side to this.

Whatever the case, time to see more of this: