San Francisco 49ers

How 49ers’ NaVorro Bowman went from indispensable to expendable

This Aug. 14, 2016 photo shows San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman standing on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif.
This Aug. 14, 2016 photo shows San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman standing on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif. AP

. Under the 49ers' previous regime, older players who had been part of the 49ers' recent glory days were king.

NaVorro Bowman was drafted by former general manager Trent Baalke and received not one, but two, contract extensions under Baalke's leadership, the second of which coming last year when he still had three years remaining on his previous deal.

Bowman held sway. He was the only star player on the team at the time, the only throwback to the team's recent defensive dominance and the biggest voice in the locker room. He was the type of player whose agent, Drew Rosenhaus, can get a team to agree to a new deal when there's no impetus to get one done.

So when Bowman was sent, unhappily, to the sidelines for a few series Sunday in Indianapolis, Rosenhaus called the 49ers to say that his client was upset and wanted a trade.

The 49ers acquiesced, reaching out to all 31 teams beginning on Thursday and getting strong nibbles from two teams, general manager John Lynch said. When Rosenhaus called back Friday morning and said Bowman had changed his mind and would publicly accept a reduced role on the defense, something unexpected happened: He didn't get his way.

The 49ers already had moved on.

Lynch recalled being in a similar state of mind in Denver when he was a player at the end of his career and he knew that keeping an unhappy veteran in an otherwise young locker room could make for a sour mix.

"Having been through that myself, once you're there mentally, people feel it in the building," Lynch said. "And I think I truly do… feel it's best for us and I truly do feel it's best for Bo, for him to go and have an opportunity somewhere where if someone brings him in, I will imagine they will have a role and that role will be easier. It's harder to do in the place you've been. It's just the way it is."

Whereas the previous regime was looking for a link to the past, the new one is laser-focused on the future.

Look at all the moves and decisions it has made over the last few months:

* Choosing outside linebacker Eli Harold, 23, over Ahmad Brooks, 33.

* Choosing quarterback C.J. Beathard, 23, over Matt Barkley, 27.

* Choosing slot receiver Trent Taylor, 23, over Jeremy Kerley, 28.

* Releasing long-time veterans like Jeremy Zuttah and Tim Hightower.

Parting ways with Bowman is part of the same pattern. He's 29 while the player they want to replace him with, Reuben Foster, is 23. In fact, with Bowman out of the picture, the two oldest starters on defense are Earl Mitchell, 30, and Jimmie Ward, 26. The other nine are 25 or younger.

Some older players with ties to the past -- Joe Staley and Daniel Kilgore -- don't have to worry because they are either playing well or there is no talented youngster behind them. Bowman, who has been good at playing downhill but who has struggled to get to the sidelines this season, isn't in that category.

Under Baalke, he was indispensable.

Under Lynch and Shanahan, he is expendable.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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