With the new league year scheduled to begin March 10, this is the time of the offseason when high-priced veterans whose salaries no longer live up to their on-field production can be coldly cast aside.
The 49ers are no different than other teams. And that leads us to a couple of questions in today’s 49ers Mailbag about players with All-Pro pasts:
Do you think they will release Bowman to save money? (Jesse Bradley)
Would the 49ers really consider releasing Patrick Willis? (Marcus Melancon)
General manager Trent Baalke could not have been any more clear last week at the NFL Scouting Combine: Tight end Vernon Davis will be on the team in the upcoming season.
Although he was not as straight forward in answering a question about NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, he strongly intimated both players will return. He suggested the contracts for both players will not prevent them from being paired once again in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.
Willis, whose streak of seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections ended last season, is scheduled to make $8.315 million this season in salary and bonuses. Bowman is slated to earn $5.45 million.
“I think if you look into those numbers, they’re not as daunting as you might think,” Baalke said.
[MAIOCCO: 49ers up against projected salary cap]
Willis’ salary can easily be converted to mostly signing bonus to create a lot of cap room. Bowman’s release would not create any significant cap room because of the amount of proration through his original signing bonus and restructured deals.
Willis opted for season-ending toe surgery after appearing in six games. Bowman missed the entire season due to the knee injury he sustained in the NFC Championship game at Seattle in January 2014.
Bowman and Willis are making “great progress” in their rehabilitations, Baalke said. Each is expected to participate in some point during the team’s offseason program and be ready for the opening of training camp.