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It's not new news that, despite leading the league in tackles last season, advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus was hard on San Francisco 49ers ILB NaVorro Bowman following yet another Pro Bowl calibre season. In face, he missed the site's Top 101 NFL Players of 2015 and their 101 Best Players in the NFL Right Now lists. The may have adequately explained why he missed the former, but the latter is a bit surprising considering the All-Pro linebacker is now feeling 100 percent for the first time since tearing his ACL and MCL during the playoffs of the 2013 season.
Matt Claassen of Pro Football Focus, like some others within the media, was a bit surprised by the timing of the extension with Bowman having three years remaining on his current contact. However, as our own Aaron Erickson has pointed out, the extension sends a clear message to other players that the 49ers, who have a surplus of money available, are willing to take care of their own – especially players as important to the franchise as Bowman.
The new four-year $44 million extension was not only added to his existing contract, making it a seven-year deal that will keep Bowman with the team through the 2022 season, but it also gives him a significant pay raise through the first three years. The total value of the contract is reportedly $77 million and makes Bowman the second-highest paid inside linebacker behind only Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers.
"It's somewhat of a surprising move because of the time left on his current contract, and the fact that Bowman was already among the top-five players at the position in average money per year," said Claassen of Pro Football Focus. He goes on to state that while Bowman ranked among the best inside linebackers from 2011 through 2013, his ranking in 2015 following his return from injury dropped significantly. "He was still stout against the run, but was less-effective as a pass-rusher, and was among the lowest-graded inside linebackers in coverage."
However, Claassen believes that if Bowman can return to 2013 form, a season where he had only one below-average game out of 19, he deserves every penny. "That's not to say the 28-year-old cannot be the player he used to be," said Claassen. "It's certainly possible that last year's decline stemmed from being his first season back after injury, or that the defensive coordinator switch from Vic Fangio to Eric Mangini also was a significant factor. Ultimately, if Bowman gets back to the level of play from a few years ago, he is worth being one of the league's highest paid inside linebackers. If he continues to play like last season, though, they will be overpaying for that type of performance."