A four-time First Team All-Pro linebacker just hit the market after the 49ers released long-time stalwart Navorro Bowman. Coming off an Achilles tear last season, ironically enough in a game against the Cowboys, Bowman is not exactly what he was in his prime, but he is still just 29-years-old and had one of the best seasons of his career just two years ago, making the Pro Bowl and being named First Team All-Pro in 2015.
Even though Bowman is somewhat damaged goods at this point in his career, he does have 22 solo tackles and 38 total on the year, which would rank second on the Cowboys in both categories. But more importantly he would represent a level of stability and veteran savvy at linebacker that is virtually non-existent unless Sean Lee is in the lineup. Jaylon Smith is clearly not ready for primetime and should only be sprinkled in here and there for experience and development purposes, Anthony Hitchens just returned from a leg injury (and is a free agent after the season by the way), and Justin Durant and Damien Wilson have been ho-hum.
If there is anything that should convince you that the Cowboys need to at least inquire as to what it would take to sign Bowman, it is this; special teamer and fringe NFL talent Kyle Wilber played 13 defensive snaps against the Packers last week. He played 49 combined in all of 2016, reaching double digits in only the first two games of that season. In the vast majority of games in 2016 he didn’t even play a single defensive snap.
Sure, when Lee is healthy the Cowboys can get by along with Hitchens, Durant, Wilson, and I guess Smith, but what happens if Lee’s injury nags him all year? What happens if Hitchens leaves via free agency next year? What happens if Durant retires after the season?
Bowman could stabilize the unit and for all we know he may even bounce back in 2018 to his former All-Pro self once he’s two years removed from the injury at only 30-years-old.
And the cherry on top?
Bowman and Lee played several years together in college at Penn St. and have a very close relationship. Not only that, but the Cowboys were supposedly very interested in him in the 2010 draft, the same year that Lee came out.
It’s very possible that Bowman is physically done and will be out of the league in a year or so, but it’s also very possible that Bowman returns to form in what should be the prime of his career, and that all he needs is time to fully recover from a very serious injury that occurred only about 12 months ago.
All I know is that with the shape the Cowboys defense is in these days they need to be looking under every possible rock for talent upgrades. This is no time to “stay the course” and be content with what is mostly an average at best linebacking unit outside of Lee. Bowman is an elite talent when healthy, and at worst he is just another average linebacker to add to the group, which is more than I can say for Jaylon Smith at this point.