SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers cut ties with one of the few remaining links to their last run of success when they released linebacker NaVorro Bowman on Friday.
General manager John Lynch said the team looked into possible trade partners and came close to completing one. But when that fell through, the team granted Bowman's request and released him to give him the opportunity to pick his new team.
"It became evident that going in different directions was best for both him and our team," Lynch said. "Although NaVorro may be moving on, he will always be looked at as one of the great players to wear the red and gold. We wish him and his family great success."
Bowman originally joined the 49ers as a third-round pick in 2010 and quickly formed one of the league's best linebacking duos with Patrick Willis. The two were key to San Francisco's run of three straight trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance. The only players remaining in San Francisco who played in that Super Bowl following the 2012 season are left tackle Joe Staley, centre Daniel Kilgore and tight end Garrett Celek.
Bowman earned first team All-Pro honours four times in his career, achieving it from 2011-13 and then again in 2015 after coming back from a devastating knee injury. Bowman then tore his Achilles tendon early last season and missed most of the year before coming back again this year.
While he lacks some of the speed he had when he was younger, Bowman still could probably help a team at age 29 and would like to get to a contender.
The Niners have been far from that in recent years, going 5-11 in 2015 and then matching the worst record in franchise history last year at 2-14. San Francisco has lost the first five games this year under first-year coach Kyle Shanahan and is looking to give more time to younger players like first-round pick Reuben Foster.
Foster could return from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since the opener on Sunday against Washington. He had been playing next to Bowman when healthy but could eventually slide over to Bowman's middle linebacker spot.
Bowman started the first five games, recording 38 tackles and one pass defenced. He had been upset about being taken out for stretches of games after being accustomed to being an every-down player most of his career.
In 89 career games, Bowman has 808 tackles, 12 1/2 sacks, four interceptions, seven forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 28 passes defenced. Bowman led the team in tackles four times in the past six years.
NOTES: FB Kyle Juszczyk (back) is out for Sunday's game. ... Foster, S Eric Reid (knee), S Adrian Colbert (hamstring), LB Dekoda Watson (groin) and CB Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) are all questionable.