When the 49ers granted linebacker NaVorro Bowman a four-year, $44 million contract extension, it wasn’t just an investment in the tenacious player he is on the field.
It was a reward for the professional he was off of it.
Although both Bowman and the 49ers had long known that the All-Pro linebacker had been outplaying his team-friendly 2012 contract, the defensive captain never once made any threats of abandoning his teammates in search of personal gain.
And in an age where holdouts are commonplace in the NFL, Bowman’s selflessness and willingness to commit to his player’s and franchise stood as a shining example as to the type of leadership the 28-year old sought to bring to the team.
Now signed through the 2022 season on a deal worth approximately $11 million per year, Bowman hopes that his actions can set a precedence for the young 49ers core that he looks to lead into the future.
“A lot of guys do hold out and try to manipulate the situation. But I think the smartest way is the way I did it.
You have to crawl before you can walk, and understand that the guys who do make the big money in this league work hard and had to wait their time to get to that point. It’s just about motivating guys, and I’ve had several guys walk up to me and say this is motivation for them, and that’s what you want. When I do something like this you want guys saying you deserve it. And when they say that to me it just keeps motivating me. So it’s a win-win situation for all of us, just to show guys that it’s possible but you have to put the work in and go out there and do your job.”
Bowman stated that he felt now was an appropriate time to ask for a raise since his role as a leader on the team has increased following the retirement of Patrick Willis.
Although Bowman had arguably played up to par with Willis while negotiating his 2012 contract, he felt that it wasn’t right to seek more money than his former partner since Willis was the team’s defensive leader at the time.
“Out of respect for Pat I took a little bit less and understood that this was his team at the time. I’ve accomplished a lot since that time and have made the huge accolades that a linebacker can make. So for me asking for the deal, they understood why.
I know it isn’t a popular thing to do with three years left. But it’s basically about being fair and how good of an organization they are and honorable to their players and the work I put in.”
Of course, it helps that Bowman has the performance accolades to warrant such an extension as well. The former third-round pick has gone on to log four All-Pro selections, three trips to the Pro Bowl, 733 tackles, 11.5 sacks and one of the most infamous interceptions in franchise history after entering the league in 2010.
That alone would be enough to put a general manager’s mind at ease when entering into contract negotiations.
But after seeing a slew of important veterans walk under his watch, Trent Baalke took no chances in overplaying his hand with Bowman, granting him an extension and raise despite having three years remaining on his contract.
A tell-tale sign of Bowman’s importance to the franchise on more than just a performance level is the speed which Baalke completed the deal.
The contract negotiations between Baalke and Bowman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had lasted just one month, concluding with a 13-hour marathon session in Santa Clara on Monday.
Following the extension, Baalke released this statement
“Over the last six years, NaVorro has become a cornerstone of our organization and securing his future in the Bay Area was a priority for us. The perseverance he displayed while overcoming adversity and returning to his All-Pro form provides a great example of what can be accomplished through hard work and self-belief. This contract extension reaffirms our core philosophy of rewarding our own players and we are thrilled to know NaVorro will play his entire career with the 49ers.”
With the extension likely to see Bowman retire in the red and gold, he’ll be instrumental in helping to shape the team’s future. And while Bowman knows that his high-level of play is crucial to the team’s success, he also looks forward to starting his role as a mentor.
“It’s looking bright for us, and we do have young guys who have the potential to be superstars in this league also. So for them to lock me in, and understand that I’m committed to be a 49er for life, and to show other guys how we do it around here, is, I think, a perfect match.”