SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On Monday, NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus appeared at the San Francisco 49ers second training camp practice. Afterward, he and client NaVorro Bowman, the team’s star linebacker, were seen walking upstairs to the offices that rise above the practice fields.
By Wednesday night, Bowman and the 49ers had agreed to a four-year contract extension, which will be added to the three years Bowman had remaining on his previous contract. Sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the four-year extension is worth $44 million, including $20 million guaranteed.
Bowman’s new-look pact takes him through the 2022 season and solidifies his standing as a franchise centerpiece for coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke.
At 28, Bowman is coming off a bounce-back season in which he overcame a devastating knee injury that cost him the entire 2014 season to earn his fourth first-team All-Pro honors in 2015. By his own admission, Bowman wasn’t at full strength in 2015, but he managed to lead the NFL in tackles, with 154 to go with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Entering this season, Bowman made it clear that he feels stronger and ready to prove he has plenty of good football ahead of him.
“I’m not too worried about the knee,” Bowman said. “The knee feels great, but I’m still staying on it so that anything that comes up that would hold me back won’t come up.
“I’m just excited to have another year to go out and improve on the year that I had last year, just to prove the doubters wrong and get back to the level that I was at and get the respect that I deserve.”
Given the three years left on Bowman’s contract, this deal is a rarity, but the 49ers have been adamant about wanting to spend some of their nearly $50 million in cap space to retain some of their key pieces. Bowman obviously fits that description.
In 2012, the 49ers signed Bowman to a contract extension that was set to take him through the 2018 season. He had three years and $23.55 million remaining on that deal.
Although the 49ers are only three practices into this year’s camp, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said he can already see a little extra bounce in Bowman’s step. That Bowman serves as one of the primary leaders on a young team only makes his continued presence more valuable.
“I thought last year, towards the end of the year, he was kind of back to what he was pre-injury,” O’Neil said. “But NaVorro’s been great. I think he’s really started to step into that leadership role, and there’s a lot of guys in the NFL who are lead-by-example guys. I think NaVorro has kind of taken that next step, and he’s a follow-me-or-else guy, which are the kind of leaders you need to have to have a great unit in this league.”
With a new deal in place, the 49ers could have their leader around for seven more seasons.