According to the Sacramento Bee, the team has made James available around the league, perhaps in order to slide up in May’s draft.
James, a second-round pick of the Niners back in the 2012 draft, has not had much of an impact in the NFL since rushing for more than 5,000 yards and 54 touchdowns while playing against 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in Oregon. But James has been stuck in a reserve role behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, and subsequently limited to 44 total offensive touches in two seasons.
The 49ers also took a flier on former Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore in the 2013 draft, and he could be fully recovered from a knee injury in time to serve as the third back behind Gore and Hunter, making James all the more expendable.
James’ electric speed is what enticed teams when he was playing at Oregon, and he also shined on kick and punt returns. But according to the Sacramento Bee, James has “made it clear to the team he wants a bigger role as a running back as well.”
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke has said James will continue to be a 49er, but admitted it was tough finding ways to get him involved.
“It’s tough,” Baalke said. “There are certain game plans where LaMichael was meant to play a little bit bigger role than he ended up playing, but that’s the game. Every game you go in with a plan and sometimes that plan changes based on what you’re seeing and what the other team is doing. So you’ve got to be flexible. It’s up to LaMichael and it’s up to every player. We tell every one of our players this: ‘It’s up to you to earn time on the field.’ So it’s not as much about what he hasn’t been doing, it’s as much about what Frank has been doing.”
The 49ers have hosted Towson’s Terrance West and Central Florida’s Storm Johnson for pre-draft visits thus far, and in type of draft talented backs could be available in later than normal.
The Bee names the Philadelphia Eagles as a potential landing spot for James. Chip Kelly coached James at Oregon, but already facilitated a trade to bring in speedster Darren Sproles last month behind incumbent LeSean McCoy.