When Drew Rosenhaus shows up at practice, a deal is imminent.
The high-profile agent, conspicuous at Monday’s 49ers practice, worked out a four-year extension for linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The deal, announced by the team Wednesday, reportedly is worth $44 million.
Bowman, who sat out the 2014 season while he recovered from a devastating left knee injury, returned last season and led the NFL in tackles. He said this year he feels even stronger and is out to prove he is the best inside linebacker in the game. Bowman said he’s motivated by those who think differently.
“I still look for slights,” he said this week. “Of course my wife does. She reminds me every day, ‘What are they talking about?’ It’s just something that, internally as a player, you want the respect from everyone.”
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Bowman, 28, already was signed through 2018, and it’s rare for a team to extend a player with three years left on his deal. The extension makes Bowman a 49er through the 2022 season, when he will be 34. The details of the new deal were not immediately available, although NFL.com reported Bowman became the league’s second-highest-paid inside linebacker behind the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly.
The 49ers had nearly $50 million in salary cap space – more than any other team – before Wednesday, and general manager Trent Baalke hinted Sunday the team soon would begin signing some of its own players. All of the team’s salary cap space this year will roll over to next year, and the 49ers had been projected to have nearly $90 million in room for 2016.
Bowman’s extension appears to be as much of a signal to his young teammates as it is a reward for the linebacker.
“The perseverance he displayed while overcoming adversity and returning to his All-Pro form provides a great example of what can be accomplished through hard work and self-belief,” Baalke said in a statement. “This contract extension reaffirms our core philosophy of rewarding our own players and we are thrilled to know NaVorro will play his entire career with the 49ers.”
When linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive end Justin Smith retired before the 2015 season, it left Bowman as the leader of the unit. He cemented that status with the most gutsy performance of his career.
Bowman clearly was not fully healthy when the season began, and he spent long periods before practices and games simply stretching and loosening his surgically repaired knee. Still, he didn’t miss a start and became progressively stronger as the year went on. He finished with double-digit tackles in three of the last five games and had 154 total in 2015, four more than Indianapolis’ D’Qwell Jackson. He was named to the AP All-Pro team at year’s end.
Rosenhaus arrived in Santa Clara in 2012 prior to Bowman’s first contract extension, a five-year deal, and was there a year later to work on tackle Anthony Davis’ extension. Rosenhaus has several other clients on the team, including wide receiver Torrey Smith and tackle Trent Brown.
Though quarterback Colin Kaepernick is signed for 2017, Blaine Gabbert is not. If the 49ers determine that he should lead the team in coming years, they will have to sign him to an extension or a new deal. Other young players such as running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Jimmie Ward will be eligible for contract extensions in coming years. Starting cornerback Tramaine Brock is signed through 2017.