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49ers release NaVorro Bowman

It’s the end of an era. The 49ers release NaVorro Bowman, and Reuben Foster is now “the guy” in the linebacker corps.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that certainly happened quickly. The San Francisco 49ers have released linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The deal comes only an hour after Adam Schefter reported the team was shopping the veteran. The team tried to do a deal, but could not work something out with Bowman and his representation. The team decided instead to release him so he could look to any of the 31 other teams. The move clears $6,937,500 in cap space this year. I forgot his salary became fully guaranteed when he was on the Week 1 roster. Working on the cap numbers.

The move makes a lot of sense, but it does not make it any easier for fans. While two leg injuries have started to slow NaVorro Bowman, he has been the heart and soul of this team in recent years. He combined with Patrick Willis to form the best linebacker duo in the NFL for three straight years.

As soon as Bowman got his shot in the 49ers starting lineup in 2011, he ran with it. He earned four All Pro appearances between 2011 and 2015, and even as Patrick Willis was viewed as a potential Hall of Fame linebacker, Bowman seemed to be eclipsing him in some ways.

Things went south in January 2014, when Bowman tore multiple knee ligaments in the NFC Championship Game. He missed the 2014 season, but returned in 2015 in a big way. After shaking off the rust, Bowman earned a Pro Bowl and All Pro nod and seemed back on track. Unfortunately, a month into the 2016 season, Bowman suffered a torn Achilles. He rehabbed the injury and returned for 2017, but he hasn’t quite been the same guy.

He can still fit in to a lot of defenses, but the writing was on the wall when the 49ers drafted Reuben Foster. The Alabama product is working at weak side linebacker, but long term he is likely to take over the MIKE role. Ray-Ray Armstrong has been solid in place of Foster following the latter’s high ankle sprain, and the coaching staff seems comfortable rolling with the two of them.

It’s a shame to see one more piece of the dominant Fangio defenses depart, but it’s how things operate in the NFL. A rebuilding team with a new coaching staff and front office is looking to the future, not the past. Best wishes to Bo as he continues his pursuit of a Super Bowl ring!