So happy together: Bowman, Willis paired through 2016

951127.jpg

So happy together: Bowman, Willis paired through 2016

SANTA CLARA A somewhat soft-spoken NaVorro Bowman took to the outside podium at the 49ers practice facility at dusk Tuesday to address his new five-year contract extension, with the loud crashing and banging of stadium construction acting as a sound bed to his press conference.

NEWS: Bowman inks five-year deal

The beams and girders are still being loudly put into place, but Bowman now knows for certain that hes going to be taking snaps in what is sure to be a gorgeous new facility when it opens in 2014. In fact, the 6-foot, 242-pounder can now be considered a part of the concrete foundation of the team and its defense for the foreseeable future.

It means a lot. Ive been wanting to be here since the first day I got here, said the third-year linebacker out of Penn State. For me, to get this done and be here through 2018 is just a great thing.

The announcement comes in the middle of what can only be considered a successful season up to this point, as the 8-2-1 Niners have the second-best record in the NFC.

Why get it done now?

Bowman said: This is a very physical game. And whenever you have a chance to get a deal done, and it sounds good, and everyone is comfortable with it, why not? We take a lot of risks out there as football players. So for me, to get this deal done, just means a lot. It shows the organization trusts me and Im just happy to be a part of it.

The move ensures that Bowman and fellow linebacker and good friend Patrick Willis will be together through at least the 2016 season. In fact, Willis was among the first people Bowman gave his good news. He just couldn't keep the secret any longer.

As soon as I told him this morning -- I wasnt supposed to, but I couldnt keep it from him, Bowman said. He has a great deal to do with this, too, just playing beside him and him helping me through this season and last year.

Willis said: I just want to say, its trulytoday is a very blessed day. Not only for this organization, but for NaVorro and his family. I know hes going to continue to play hard, and continue to do all the things right to become an even better player. Truly blessed to have him here for a long time, and beside each other.

Bowmans agent Drew Rosenhaus revealed that he had been working with the 49ers organization since the start of the season, after he approached the team in the offseason. The two sides were originally far apart, according to Rosenhaus, but the agent had only good things to say about the teams front office for finalizing a deal on Tuesday.

Its a very special accomplishment. I take my hat off to the Niners and to NaVorro, Rosenhaus said. I think only the most proactive teams get it done. I think this is perhaps the most talented team in the NFL. If you want to keep all your good players, you have to get deals done now. You cant let guys get to free agency. You cant keep everybody.

Willis and his hefty salary threw a monkey wrench into the negotiation process, according to Rosenhaus. According to the NFL Networks Albert Breer, Bowmans new contract is worth 45.25 million over five years, with 25.5 million of that guaranteed. In the 2010 offseason, Willis inked a five-year, 50 million deal (29 million guaranteed).

Once we got to a level of guaranteed compensation, we knew we werent going to get caught up with who was making more. NaVorro was not about that, Rosenhaus said. We were very comfortable with this deal. Hes one of the top-five highest paid guys at the position. Hes gotten it earlier than just about anybody and were very comfortable with the deal.

Bowman said: In order for us to keep the guys that we have together, were going to have to give on each side. Thats what was done. We worked together. I wasnt mad about not getting paid more than Pat. Hes my brother. We play together, we play close together, and were making the same amount of money just about. Im happy about it, and I wont lose any sleep over it. Im glad to be a Niner for a few more years.

Willis doesnt seem too concerned, either. In fact, the godfather of Bowmans twin daughters only has one request for himself and his fiance.

"A super nice dinner. A medium-plus steak with probably a lobster tail, so a little surf-n-turf deal, with some good mashed potatoes and some vegetables, Willis said. And some ice cream for dessert. Vanilla."

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.