The 49ers have decided to cut ties with one of the best linebackers in franchise history. The team announced Friday that NaVorro Bowman has been released after eight seasons with the team. 

According to general manager John Lynch, the 49ers attempted to trade Bowman this week, but when that fell through, the team decided to release him at his request. 

"NaVorro gave his heart and soul to this team for the last eight years, and for that we are all extremely grateful," 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."

Although Bowman started in all five games that the 49ers have played this season, he's slowly been losing playing time to Brock Coyle. Bowman clearly wasn't happy about the development, which is why he requested his release. 

"Kyle and I met with NaVorro [on Thursday}, and from our conversation it became evident that going in different directions was best for both him and our team," Lynch said. "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."

Bowman, who has been named first-team All-Pro four times, has struggled with injuries over the past few years. In 2016, Bowman tore his Achilles in Week 4 and missed the final 12 games of the season. 

The linebacker also suffered a devastating injury in the NFC title game following the 2013 season. During the fourth quarter of a 23-17 loss to the Seahawks, Bowman tore his ACL and MCL.

The injuries were so bad that Bowman was forced to sit out the entire 2014 season.

Despite the ugly injury, Bowman didn't seem to lose a step when he returned. Not only did he start all 16 games for the 49ers, but he led the NFL in tackles with 154. The linebacker was named first-team All-Pro in 2015, and was voted to his third career Pro Bowl.

It's not often that an All-Pro linebacker becomes available during the middle of the season, so it will be interesting to see where Bowman ends up. Here are five potential candidates. 

  1. Texans: Houston (2-3) is dealing with the suspension of Brian Cushing, who won't be back on the field until December. Bowman would be a big signing for a Texans defense that's also dealing with the loss of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus
  2. Panthers: After watching star linebacker Luke Kuechly go down with an injury on Thursday, the Panthers might be in the market for a linebacker. Kuechly is in concussion protocol for the third time in three seasons, and in both 2014 and 2015, the linebacker ended up missing some serious time due to a concussion. If he can't return soon, signing Bowman would be a smart move for the Panthers. 
  3. Raiders: For the past year, the biggest question mark on the Raiders defensive has been their linebackers. If Bowman were to sign in Oakland, he would probably be able to start right away. Not to mention, the Raiders might have a small edge on any other team because if Bowman signs with the Raiders, he wouldn't have to move. 
  4. Cowboys: The Cowboys' defense has been so bad this year that they should be trying to sign any defensive talent they can get their hands on. Bowman falls into that category. 
  5. Ravens: Pairing up Bowman with C.J. Mosley would be a potential nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators. The idea of Bowman on the Ravens defense is so enticing that fans in Baltimore have already started recruiting him.