The San Francisco 49ers still haven’t made that splash move or deal this off-season that fans have been wanting and expecting. Quarterback Colt McCoy is leaving for the Washington Redskins, but wide receiver Kassim Osgood and cornerback Perrish Cox are staying in San Francisco. I doubt we will hear any more substantial news in the month of April, maybe a Jim Harbaugh contract extension now that Pete Carroll has signed his extension.
We are a little more than a month away from the 2014 NFL draft set for May 8th at Radio City Music Hall in New York. From now until then I’m sure we will hear many speculations and rumors of possible signings or trades by the various 49ers insiders, but one thing will remain true with each story for the 49ers; each story will be tied to the upcoming draft.
Make no mistake about it, the 49ers have an abundance of draft picks (11 total) which also provides the 49ers many drafting options and or, draft day options.
This leads me to into the most recent 49er rumor – running back LaMichael James could be on his way out. Not that this is really “new” news, but the speculation is heating up.
LaMichael James – 49ers
LaMichael James was a University of Oregon track and field athlete, as well as a standout NFL prospect running back. His speed and elusiveness in the open field was admired during his collegiate days at Oregon under Chip Kelly’s explosive offense.
At the 2012 NFL combine, James cemented his status as a top back, so much so that James was drafted 61st overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFL draft. Only 4 running backs (Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson and Isaiah Pead) were drafted ahead of LaMichael James that year. A total of 19 running backs entered the draft that year. Analysts said the class of running backs that year wasn’t strong to begin with and had Trent Richardson out of Alabama as the best back available. So far that draft class has panned out as most analysts suggested, LaMichael James included.
I don’t think LaMichael James’ size ever translated into the NFL, or it’s possible he just hasn’t found his role on the right team. LaMichael has been searching for an identity with the San Francisco 49ers since being drafted. Used mainly in kick-return situations, James rarely saw a heavy load on the field and so far things just haven’t panned out. In any case you could almost see this coming for James and now letting Anthony Dixon go for nothing may have its repercussions for the 49ers down the road.
How Do The 49ers Move James?
LaMichael James could be bundled with a draft pick in order to move up in the draft, but the real question is what is James’ value and what could the Niners truly gain from trading James and a mid-round or late-round pick?
The answer is probably next to nothing. Unfortunately the Niners did not use James’ services enough for him to warrant true NFL value. James is signed through 2015 with the 49ers and will be paid $641,718 in base salary next year. He is a cheap option if a team is in need of speed at a low-price. The potential is certainly there.
The other option is to cut James altogether to free up money.
49ers RBs – Post LaMichael James
Should the 49ers part ways with LaMichael James it will leave them with four running backs on the depth chart: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore and the most recent signee to a future/reserves contract – Jewell Hampton.
A year ago if this were the case I would be yelling, “Lookout!”, but Lattimore is still unproven and recovering from a serious knee injury, inwhich he tore all three major ligaments in his left knee.
Frank Gore had his seventh 1,000 yard rushing season but a less-than-average playoff run says Gore may be running out of gas when it counts the most.
Kendall Hunter has proven to be a productive second-string back on this team and he will definitely be utilized in the upcoming season.
Even if James remains on the 49ers roster, I can assure you his wish to play as a running back may not see the light of day again in red and gold.
His only chance to remain on this roster, as it is, is to become a special teams weapon, just as the 49ers always intended him to be.