San Francisco 49ers Willing To Move Bowman – Unless, They’re Not

Oct 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) reacts to the crowd during the fourth quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Ravens 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) reacts to the crowd during the fourth quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Ravens 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be shopping one of the team’s leaders and stalwarts – a rumor the organization is vehemently denying.

San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan have moved quickly in putting their own stamp on this organization. Very quickly. They’ve brought in a boatload of new players via free agency and then augmented the roster after a very savvy and productive NFL Draft. Needless to say, this year’s team will bear very little resemblance to last year’s – which, given their 2-14 mark, may not be such a bad thing.

One of the few remaining similarities between the two teams is linebacker NaVorro Bowman – a 49ers stalwart and standout since the team made him a third round pick in 2010. When healthy, he’s been one of the fiercest and most productive linebackers in the game.

But after an injury-plagued 2016 season that saw him limited to just four games, there are whispers floating around that Bowman is available for the right price.

Michael Lombardi of The Ringer, initially put it out there, saying, “The 49ers made it known that if you want him, he’s healthy, they’ll be willing to move.”

Not citing anything other than his own speculation and opinion, Lombardi offered up a reason he believes the 49ers would be willing to part with Bowman after so many outstanding and productive seasons.

"“Bowman is a guy who’s been a leader in the locker room, who’s been part of the team. He had a really good relationship with the older general manager, Trent Baalke. So I think this is a message they would send to the locker room that he’s no longer in control anymore. He’s available if you want. I don’t know who’s gonna pay him $9.5 million coming off all the injuries that he’s had, but you can have him. And I think ultimately, you gotta make that decision, and I don’t think that’ll be a lot.”"

Regardless of Bowman’s relationship with former GM Trent Baalke, given the absolute shake up in the 49ers organization, it seems more than clear that the old regime isn’t “in control anymore.” If anybody has any doubts about that, they haven’t been paying attention. Which, of course, makes that speculation of Lombardi’s a little – suspect.

San Francisco 49ers
December 20, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The injury portion of Lombardi’s comments though, seem the most relevant to any discussion about moving Bowman. Given that he missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL and MCL, and then missed all but four games last season with a torn Achilles, there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding Bowman’s health.

And that cap hit of $9.5 million this year, $12 million next year, and $6.4 million more in 2019 is a big, big risk to take with so many uncertainties. But that also means, in order to move him, Lynch and the 49ers would need to find somebody willing to roll those dice on Bowman being – and staying – healthy.

Lynch and Shanahan been quick in trying to squelch those flames sparked by the inital rumors of their willingness to part with Bowman. They took to the media and issued a joint statement to make their supposed position very clear.

"“The report that we have been shopping NaVorro Bowman is completely false. From the time we joined the organization, NaVorro has been the consummate professional. It is evident he has been working very hard to prepare for the upcoming season and we have been impressed by what we have already seen on the field. We are looking forward to NaVorro’s future contributions to this team.”"

While the statement would certainly seem to make their position clear, the question that needs to be asked is – what else would you expect them to say?

Certainly, it wouldn’t be good for the team or for Bowman for them to acknowledge that his name is being bandied about in trade rumors. If they openly acknowledged it, and nothing were to ever come to fruition, it would most definitely create some awkwardness and tension within the locker room.

You can’t think that Bowman, who’s given his blood, sweat, and tears to the organization that drafted him, would necessarily be all that amused by it.

Not to call Lynch and Shanahan liars, but this is a scenario we’ve seen play out all too many times before. Trade rumors surface, organization vehemently denies said rumors – and then trades the player in question a week later. Football is a business and the organizations have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the team and putting the best product on the field that they can.

Next: Lynch, Shanahan Charting Bold, Aggressive, New Course

And if putting the best team they can on the field includes trading a popular and productive player, they’re going to do it. We’ve seen it more times than we can count.

All of that being said, trading Bowman at this point would be foolish beyond measure. Yes, he’s a big risk, given his injury history and salary this season. But, if he can get back to the form that made him a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro, that’s money well spent.

Beyond the production on the field though, to have a “consummate professional” like Bowman on hand to mentor a player like first round pick Reuben Foster – somebody the organization hopes will be the next great 49ers linebacker – is invaluable. Getting to learn from Bowman, one of the best in the game, would be invaluable to Foster’s development and growth.

Not to mention the fact that Bowman’s leadership on this team – a team with many young faces – would be nearly impossible to replace.

But it’s all going to come down to what makes the most sense for this team in 2017. If that means trading Bowman, they will. If that means keeping him, they’ll do that too. As of now, Lynch and Shanahan are saying all the right things and are doing their best to defuse the situation.

But, we’ll all just have to wait to see if, when the smoke clears, there’s actually any fire there or not.