Oakland Raiders Should Most Definitely Not Deal For NaVorro Bowman

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
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 Oakland Raiders most definitely have need for an inside linebacker, but picking up a veteran with a concerning injury history is not the answer.

The Oakland Raiders desperately needed an inside linebacker before the first wave of free agency and the draft – and they still desperately need one after the first wave of free agency and the draft. After striking out in the Zach Brown derby, the Raiders are still left with a dire need in the middle of their defense.

The need is so glaring and so real, that even HC Jack Del Rio – who normally marches in lockstep with GM Reggie McKenzie‘s personnel decisions – has made his displeasure about the lack of help at the position known.

In an interview given a few weeks back, Del Rio had this to say about the subject:

"“I don’t know that we’ve adequately addressed our middle linebacker position, to be honest. I think we have some work to do there. The rest of our roster is pretty well situated, but we’ll be looking for a linebacker and we’ll continue to look, whether it’s the waiver wire, trades or available guys out there, veterans on the street. We’ll continue to look.”"

While the Raiders picked up free agent Jelani Jenkins and drafted Marquel Lee, Del Rio’s comments make it clear that he has some doubts about their ability to be the solution the team so desperately needs.

Jenkins and Lee fill out a rotation that includes Neiron Ball, Ben Heeney, Cory James, and possibly Tyrell Adams. It’s not the most imposing or fearsome group of linebackers ever assembled. Does that mean they can’t step up and play competently? Of course not. But, if there’s one thing recent history has taught us, it’s that we can’t count on it.

That lack of confidence in Oakland’s linebackers has naturally led people to start looking around at other possible fixes. And in recent days, a few pieces have been floating around the Internet suggesting that the Raiders could fix their problem by looking across the Bay and dealing for San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

A few years ago, having Bowman in a Silver and Black jersey would not just made sense, but would have been fantastic. Today though, it carries a lot of risk – too much risk for the price tag he carries.

The biggest concern surrounding Bowman is his health in recent seasons. After missing the entire 2014 season rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL, he had a very solid 2015 campaign. Appearing in all sixteen games, Bowman had a Pro Bowl year with 154 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

However, in 2016, Bowman was limited to just four games after tearing his Achilles in a game against the Cowboys. It’s an injury he continues to rehab from, and although the team is saying that he’s making great progress, we won’t know just how healthy he is until the pads come on and teams are going full speed.

Which makes dealing for Bowman a huge risk – and for 2017, that $9.5 million dollar cap hit he’d bring with him is far too big of a risk to take.

With megadeals for Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson on the front burner – one for Khalil Mack coming soon, and another for Amari Cooper on the not too distant horizon – McKenzie and the Raiders simply cannot afford to roll the dice on a player with Bowman’s recent injury history.

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Bowman signed an extension with the 49ers that will keep him there until 2022. But there is an out that can be exercised in 2020. Which means that if Oakland did deal for Bowman, they’d be on the hook for three seasons. And his current deal calls for him to carry a cap hit of that $9.5 million this year, $12 million in 2018, and $6.4 in 2019.

That’s just about $28 million over those three years – or an average of just over $9 million a season.

If this were younger, vintage Bowman, the case could be made that it was a bargain. But this is soon to be 29 year old Bowman coming off a pair of catastrophic injuries that limited him to just 20 of the team’s last 48 games.

With no guarantee that he will ever come back to be as dominant has he had been earlier in his career, it’s a move that doesn’t make sense.

The Raiders have a pressing need in the middle of their defense. But they also cannot afford to pay a guy who isn’t going to be able to say on the field. And at this point, it’s hard to say with certainty that Bowman can do that.

The Raiders need a solution at linebacker. And at one point in time, somebody like Bowman could have been it. But with so much on the line, and so many question marks surrounding Bowman, that time has seemingly passed.