Longtime NFL linebacker NaVorro Bowman will retire as a member of the 49ers, San Francisco announced today. Bowman spent seven-plus seasons with the 49ers, but didn’t play in the NFL last year.
Bowman, now 31 years old, was a third-round selection in the 2010 draft. After serving primarily as a special-teamer during his rookie campaign, Bowman became a starter in 2011 and didn’t look back. Pairing with Patrick Willis to create the league’s best linebacker tandem, Bowman earned first-team All-Pro honors 2011-13, posting at least 140 combined tackles in each season.
Unfortunately, in what likely became the defining moment of his career, Bowman suffered a brutal knee injury in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, tearing both his ACL and MCL in the process. The Penn State product missed the entirety of the 2014 season, and while he returned in 2015 and was again named first-team All-Pro, he never quite regained his pre-injury form.
A torn Achilles tendon prematurely ended Bowman’s 2016 season, and spelled the near end of his 49ers career. Five games into the 2017 campaign, San Francisco released Bowman after he voiced displeasure at a nearly-completed trade to the Saints. Bowman latched on with the Raiders, and put up 89 tackles over the final 10 games of the year.
Bowman was expected to draw interest during the 2018 offseason, and PFR had him ranked as the second-best off-ball linebacker on the market. The Packers reportedly considered adding Bowman following an injury to their linebacker corps, and he scheduled a workout with the Browns in October 2018, but no deal was ever reached.
Bowman will end his career with more than $44MM in earnings. PFR wishes him well as he enters retirement.
Former 49ers and Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman is scheduled to work out for the Browns on Tuesday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This marks Bowman’s first known workout since the start of the season.
Bowman, 30, spent his entire career with the Niners before being released last October. He was productive after hooking on with the Raiders, but new head coach Jon Gruden opted against re-signing him in the spring. Between his ten contests in Oakland and five in San Francisco, Bowman finished out with 127 combined tackles, six tackles for a loss, five QB hits, and 1.5 sacks.
The Packers reportedly considered the veteran after losing Jake Ryan to a torn ACL, but they decided to go in a different direction. Bowman’s market has been weirdly quiet, but the Browns have every reason to believe that he can be a key contributor. At this stage of the year, the Browns could get Bowman for something near the prorated portion veteran’s minimum, and that could prove to be one of the year’s best value signings.
In his salad days, Bowman was considered to be among the very best linebackers in the NFL. He earned three consecutive First Team All-Pro selections with San Francisco before suffering an Achilles injury early in 2016.
After losing linebacker Jake Ryan for the season due to a torn ACL, the Packers considered NaVorro Bowman and a host of other veteran linebackers, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). However, it appears Green Bay will hold off on signing a new linebacker for the time being.
Bowman spent the entire 2017 campaign in the Bay Area, but split his time between two clubs thanks to a midseason trade that sent him from the 49ers to the Raiders. The 30-year-old Bowman hasn’t garnered much interest since the free agent market opened in March, although the Raiders have expressed a desire to re-sign him despite adding other veteran ‘backers such as Derrick Johnson, Tahir Whitehead, and Emmanuel Lamur during the offseason.
The Packers are keeping a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Mike Pettine, so Bowman would likely be comfortable in a scheme he’s played for most of his career. But Green Bay instead wants to give its younger players a chance to play, per Pelissero. Rookie third-round pick Oren Burks looks like a clear candidate to receive playing time next to Blake Martinez, while Pelissero indicates Ahmad Thomas (whom the Packers picked up last November) is also an internal favorite.
There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp:
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin since he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t garnered much interest this offseason. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin’s veteran leadership could help him find a deal in the coming weeks, but he’s probably not a starting-caliber player at this point in his career.
Last year, Hankins waited patiently before signing a three-year, $27MM free agent deal with the Colts. The Colts bailed on that contract this past March, putting him back in the free agent bin. Hankins, again, is patiently waiting for his market to develop. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus did not see Hankins as a fit for his scheme, but he could be a solid addition for plenty of other teams. Hankins played in a 4-3 with the Giants but did well in the Colts’ 3-4 setup last year. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 20 interior defender in the league last year with tremendous marks for his work against the run. The Redskins met with Hankins soon after his release, but first-round pick Da’Ron Payne is now slated to hold down the starting nose tackle position. The Jets met with Hankins in April and that still looks like a logical fit to us.
There’s no longer a place for Bowman in the Raiders’ front seven after the signing of former Chief Derrick Johnson, but some team out there is likely to make a play for the veteran. Bowman lost all of the 2014 season and most of 2016 to injury, but he was healthy and productive in 2017.
The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer:
Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t drawn a ton of interest over the last 12 weeks. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin played on 71% of L.A’s defensive snaps last year, but the advanced metrics indicated that he was among the worst qualified pass rushers in the NFL. A team less focused on metrics and more focused on veteran leadership would do well to add Barwin as he enters his age-32 season.
Bowman graded as the Raiders’ best linebacker by a wide margin last season, which makes his ongoing unemployment a bit perplexing. Coach Jon Gruden didn’t rule out a reunion with Bowman even after signing former Chief Derrick Johnson, but that seems somewhat unlikely at this juncture.
It sounds like Jon Gruden and Derrick Johnson hit it off in a one-on-one meeting, which led to the Raiders signing the 14th-year linebacker earlier on Friday. Johnson’s deal is a one-year agreement, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com reports, adding that it’s worth up to $3MM. Gruden looks to have been a Johnson fan for a while during his years as ESPN’s Monday Night Football analyst, and that intel may have played a key role in the 35-year-old off-ball ‘backer landing with Oakland.
“I’m one of Gruden’s favorite players — he’s always had a soft spot for me,” Johnson said, via Paylor. “He’s always said that over the years. I’m not playing for a rebuilding-type year. I sensed an urgency from Coach Gruden that winning is important right now.”
The Chiefs’ all-time leading tackler, Johnson has not played in a 4-3 defense since the 2008 season. Prior to the Chiefs switching to the 3-4 look in 2009, Johnson worked as an outside linebacker with Kansas City during his first four seasons. The Raiders signed Tahir Whitehead as well. He, Bruce Irvin and Johnson could be the Raiders’ three linebacker starters, despite Johnson telling Paylor he’s not quite the same player he was since the second of his severe Achilles injuries shut him down late in the 2016 season.
Here’s the latest out of the Bay Area:
Gruden, though, did not rule out a NaVorro Bowman reunion (Twitter link via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area). Bowman is nearly six years younger than Johnson but also carries injury baggage. However, Bowman graded as Oakland’s best linebacker by a wide margin last season. The Raiders have maintained they’re still interested in Bowman throughout the offseason, but they’ve now added four linebackers — with Emmanuel Lamur and Kyle Wilber coming to California as well — since Bowman became a free agent.
The Raiders began their rookie minicamp with Kolton Miller working at left tackle, where he’ll likely be Donald Penn‘s backup. Gruden confirmed the team’s first-round pick will start his career there, per NFL.com’s James Palmer (on Twitter), despite the team being in need of an immediate right tackle starter. Third-round pick Brandon Parker will work at that position.
Maurice Hurst Jr.‘s been cleared for workouts and participated in the first day of the Raiders’ minicamp. Gruden said (via Bair, on Twitter) the team doesn’t have any reservations about the Michigan product, whose heart issues played a major role in him sliding into the fifth round. Gruden believes the Raiders landed the top two interior pass rushers in the draft in Hurst and second-round pick P.J. Hall, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (via Twitter).
The 49ers plan to move third-round pick Tarvarius Moore from cornerback to safety, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes. The Southern Mississippi alum ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, and his 6-foot-2 frame also makes John Lynch believe he could stick at corner. Interestingly, 5-9 safety D.J. Reed — an outside corner at Kansas State — will compete with K’Waun Williams for the slot job, per Barrows, but also practice at safety. San Francisco’s brass is clearly unafraid to shuttle its defensive backs around, having Jimmie Ward ready to potentially switch positions for the fourth straight offseason.
Would-be third-year DB Dexter McCoil broke a bone in his foot training independently, leading the 49ers to waive him with an NFI distinction, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. A 16-game Charger participant in 2016 and having played eight games with the 49ers last season, McCoil is facing a four- to six-week recovery period, per Maiocco.
Despite visiting with each of this draft’s top four quarterbacks and being consistently rumored to have a couple of them on their radar, the Broncos did not select one throughout the draft. And they aren’t planning on bringing another one in before training camp. John Elway said Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly will compete for the backup job behind Case Keenum, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. This is an interesting approach considering both players are coming off injury-marred years. Lynch will be the only active-roster Broncos QB returning since the team let Brock Osweiler depart in free agency and traded Trevor Siemian. Denver is evidently set at the game’s marquee position, putting faith in Keenum.
Here’s the latest from the AFC West:
The Raiders had a busy weekend, making multiple trades for veteran players and taking multiple high-ceiling, low-floor defenders. But they did not invest big in off-ball linebackers, and Reggie McKenzie said (via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com) a NaVorro Bowman acquisition remains on the table. This has been the GM’s party line for a bit now, but it’s notable that stance remains after the Raiders brought in Tahir Whitehead to start and multiple other veteran backups. Bowman started for the Raiders most of last season and was by far their top-graded linebacker, in the opinion of Pro Football Focus.
In selecting a player with possible first-round talent in the fifth, the Raiders may have a steal in Maurice Hurst Jr. But the Michigan-developed defensive tackle will be subject to annual heart evaluations after the issue that caused his stock to slip. However, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes (via Twitter) the Raiders do not view this as a flier or year-to-year proposition. Hurst was cleared going into the draft after being flagged for a heart problem at the Combine, but it’s clear all 32 teams were not in agreement on Hurst being a safe bet.
Each of the Chiefs‘ six draft picks went to addressing their defense, which ranked 30th in DVOA last season. But Louis Riddick of ESPN reported during the draft sixth-round pick Kahlil McKenzie — Reggie’s son — will begin his career at guard despite playing defensive tackle at Tennessee. The Chiefs lost Bennie Logan this offseason but drafted Derrick Nnadi out of Florida State to potentially move into that role. Kahlil McKenzie, then, will attempt to carve out a spot on the offensive line.
The Raiders signed Bowman last October after he was released by the 49ers, and he went on to start 10 games for the club. In 15 total games last season, Bowman posted 80 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one interception while grading as the NFL’s No. 11 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus. Bowman said in December that he’d prefer to re-sign with the Raiders, noting his affinity for the Bay Area.
Oakland has already made one major addition to its linebacking corps this offseason by inking former Lion Tahir Whitehead to a three-year deal. Whitehead has experience at each of the linebacker positions, but he’d shift to the outside to make room for Bowman if the latter is re-signed.
Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders.
2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.
4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.
6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]
7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inkingAaron Colvin.
8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.
11. Kenny Vaccaro, S (Saints): With the ability to play both safety and slot cornerback, Vaccaro will have a fair amount of suitors. Analytics-focused teams might not high on him after he ranked as the worst coverage safety in the league, according to PFF.
13. Ryan Jensen, C (Ravens): Jensen stepped into a starting role in 2017 and flourished, grading out as the No. 9 center in the NFL, per PFF. The former sixth-round pick also has previous experience at guard. The Jets were widely speculated to be a suitor, but they addressed their needs by signing Spencer Long instead. He has visits lined up with the Bucs and Colts.
14. Jack Mewhort, G (Colts): Mewhort’s season ended prematurely in October thanks to a knee injury, marking his second straight incomplete campaign. That’s not a great way to enter the open market, but he did have three quality years as an NFL starter before that. Mewhort doesn’t turn 27 until October, which helps his case.
17. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Jets): AS-J rebounded from personal issues to post the best season of his career with the Jets. He was impressive at times, but he is no better than the No. 3 TE in this year’s free agent crop. He’ll meet with the Seahawks and Jaguars. No word yet on whether the Saints, who missed out on a Jimmy Graham reunion, have any interest.
18. Tyler Eifert, TE (Bengals): Once one of the NFL’s brightest stars at tight end, Eifert has been limited by a host of injuries. You can expect Eifert to ink a one-year deal somewhere with a low base and ample incentives.
19. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Redskins): Pryor found himself disappointed by the 2017 free agent market, but that paled in comparison to the disappointment felt by the Redskins after signing him to a one-year deal. Pryor will benefit from a shallow WR crop, however. He is on the Browns’ radar, so a return to Cleveland is possible.
24. Demario Davis, LB (Jets):Davis wants $8-$10MM per year, but he’ll get about half of that. [UPDATE: Davis is off the board after signing a three-year, $24MM deal with the Saints, so he achieved his yearly goal after all. The deal includes $18MM guaranteed.]
25. Jordan Matthews, WR (Bills): Injuries held Matthews back in 2017, but he’s not far removed from posting 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns with the Eagles.
Jon Gruden loves his veterans, and the Raiders have their eye on a pair of experienced linebackers. Oakland has expressed interest in re-signing NaVorro Bowman and they have also shown interest in free agent linebacker Zach Brown, according to Michael Gehlken of the Review Journal (on Twitter).
Gruden may have some familiarity with Browns since he played under his brother, Jay Gruden, in 2017. With the Redskins, Brown amassed 127 total tackles and 2.5 sacks, making him an excellent value on his one-year deal. This time around, Brown says he wants to be paid as a top-three inside linebacker. It’s unlikely that he’ll reach that lofty goal.