The San Francisco 49ers shocked almost everybody on Friday when they announced they were releasing linebacker NaVorro Bowman. An hour earlier, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the team was attempting to trade Bowman, and had some interested parties. So, what exactly happened in that hour?
Well, it sounds like plenty happened over the past 24 hours to turn this from a potential trade into an actual release. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media on Friday to explain how things went down.
Last Sunday, Bowman expressed his displeasure with losing some snaps in the Colts game. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, spoke to John Lynch about it on Monday. Lynch told him that Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff felt this was in Bowman’s best interest in terms of keeping him fresh through the season. Rosenhaus responded that if that was the case, Bowman would prefer to be traded.
Lynch said they, “let everybody cool down there for a day or so,” and that got Lynch and Shanahan discussing things and the future of the organization. They knew that the return of Reuben Foster would further eat into Bowman’s playing time, and in light of how he felt about the Colts situation, it would not have improved the relationship with Bowman.
The 49ers made it clear they were prepared to trade him, and Shanahan said they had a deal they thought was pretty good. However, it was not a location Bowman would have preferred.
“It really didn’t work out the best way that Bo wanted. And so we’re not going to sit there and try and be greedy with anything — especially with who we’re dealing with. We’ve got too much respect to do that to him, and we’re going to give him the chance to go have 31 other decisions.”
John Lynch confirmed the team did speak to all 31 teams once it became clear the team was prepared to move on from Bowman. They got some interested, and were closing in on a deal aside from some technicalities, but, “[a]t a certain point, the idea of having 31 teams as one of his options was more appealing to him. We felt like he’s earned that right.”
Bowman is due $6.75 million in base salary this year, and so in a trade, another team would have to pick up the remaining portion of his salary. The 49ers owe him guaranteed money, but now that he is released, a team can sign him to significantly less than what his 49ers contract called for. It’s safe to say that Bowman’s sizable 2017 salary made it harder for the 49ers to deal him in a trade. He can most definitely contribute to another team, but some of the team that might like him best likely do not have sufficient cap space to take that kind of hit the rest of this season.
We only know what we’re told, but based on what Lynch and Shanahan said, this feels like the 49ers were trying to give Bowman the best opportunity out of this. Lynch said as much, and it reflects on how some of the team’s other releases have gone this offseason. We saw it with the decision to release Torrey Smith and Antoine Bethea at the start of free agency, and we see it again with this decision to release Bowman.
I don’t know how much that will pay off in the future, but the 49ers handling of this might provide at least something future free agents will find appealing. Lynch talked about having been in this situation with Denver, not wanting to have to lose snaps to players he thought he was better than. He dealt with it then, and knows how to deal with it in speaking to players now. It’s certainly a plus in the always complicated relationships between player and executive.