NaVorro Bowman stopped being in the San Francisco 49ers’ long-term plans long before the regular season got underway. It became quite clear in training camp that Bowman was not a fit athletically for the role that was expected of him, and the 49ers found a way to justify moving on from him as part of their youth movement.
It’s a move that bothers me personally because I’m such a fan of his, but it simply didn’t make sense to continue the relationship. The 49ers moved on. Now that Bowman has signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders across the bay, he’s moved on too.
A lot of 49ers fans were conditioned to hate the Raiders growing up. I know I was, and I pray my grandfather doesn’t read what I’m about to say: I kind of like the Raiders. It’s disappointing that this year’s team is such a disaster given the talent on both sides of the ball. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper should be leading Oakland to an easy AFC West title, but nothing seems to be going right.
I feel like the NFL is a much more interesting place when the Raiders are a good team. Bowman makes them a much better team for a lot of reasons, though I’m not expecting him to be at his former All-Pro level. The Raiders have been in need of a strong force in the middle of their defense. Bowman can be that guy.
The Raiders have a huge hole at middle linebacker. Rookie fifth-round pick Marquel Lee was supposed to fill that hole, but he’s down with an ankle injury. The Raiders regularly play guys like Nicholas Morrow and Tyrell Adams on defense — guys with very little experience. If Bowman has lost a step, he’s still a world ahead of guys like that.
Oakland has the No. 25 run defense in the league, and it shows. Bowman is good against the run, even diminished. And if he regains his old form, then even better for them.
The Raiders were a convenient destination for Bowman, and I didn’t expect it to actually work out. But they signed him, and I wish him the best. I believe he’ll flourish.