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49ers release NaVorro Bowman after brief hunt for a trade partner

NaVorro Bowman is a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

NaVorro Bowman’s time with the San Francisco 49ers is over after he was released by the team on Friday, the team announced at a press conference.

“NaVorro gave his heart and soul to this team for the last eight years, and for that we are all extremely grateful,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “During that time, NaVorro was a key component of one of the best teams in the league and his passion for the game allowed him to quickly become a favorite of our faithful fans.

“Thursday evening, [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and I met with NaVorro, and from our conversation it became evident that going in different directions was best for both him and our team. Although NaVorro may be moving on, he will always be looked at as one of the great players to wear the red and gold. We wish him and his family great success.”

The 29-year-old linebacker was a third-round pick in 2010 and quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s premier players at the position by his second season. Beginning in 2011, he was named a First Team All-Pro in three consecutive seasons, then again in 2015 after missing the entire 2014 season due to ACL and MCL tears.

Injury struck again in 2016 when an Achilles tendon tear cost him the last 12 games of the year.

He returned as a starter in 2017, but after five weeks the 49ers attempted to find a trade partner to send away Bowman. That hunt was unsuccessful:

With the team unable to find a deal, it released the linebacker Friday.

Why does this makes sense for the 49ers? San Francisco used a first-round pick on linebacker Reuben Foster in April, but he has dealt with an ankle injury in the first month of his rookie season. Foster is back to practicing and should be able to return soon, but Bowman is ahead of him on the depth chart.

At 0-5, the 49ers clearly aren’t a contender in 2017 and can afford to start thinking about the future. Foster is a part of that vision and Bowman isn’t after two season-ending injuries in the last three years and a nearly $12 million cap hit on the way in 2018.

Bowman also just hasn’t played very well and the 49ers see the team as better off giving the reps to Foster. The likely scenario if Bowman wasn’t released now was that he’d get released anyway after the season.

Parting ways with a player who has done great things for a franchise is no fun, but the 49ers have to look forward. This move only hurts the team in a 2017 season that wasn’t going to be a good one anyway.