Chris Johnson is officially off the market. The veteran running back signed a two-year deal with the New York Jets on Wednesday and now the free agent pool in the position is relatively weak. Teams still in need of running backs will be forced to focus on the draft as Michael Bush and Ronnie Brown are all that really remain. However, the San Francisco 49ers are changing that up as the team is officially shopping LaMichael James prior to the NFL Draft.
The Sacramento Bee is reporting the 49ers are attempting to move James quickly in hopes of using him to move up in the draft. James has rarely been used in his first two seasons in the Bay Area since getting drafted in the second round. He became buried on the depth chart behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. With Marcus Lattimore returning healthy for the start of 2014, James is really not needed.
It is unclear exactly what James is worth on the open market. The running back has 39 rushes to his name while also returning 23 punts and 12 kickoffs. He certainly has fresh legs and given his history as a premier back for Oregon, James could be worthy of a solid role. According to the Bee, James has been requesting a trade for a long time and is finally getting his wish. The running back simply wants to play and he is not getting nor will he get that opportunity with San Francisco.
There are still a few teams in need of a running back that might not want to draft a rookie. The Minnesota Vikings have been active in the running back market, but have yet to sign anyone. After losing Toby Gerhart to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they need a solid backup for Adrian Peterson. James would certainly get more carries that he has been requesting, while still having time to develop under the best in the game.
The Cleveland Browns could also be poised to take a look at James. Without Trent Richardson and now without Willis McGahee, the team needs a better running back tandem. The Browns did sign Ben Tate, but Fozzy Whittaker and Dion Lewis might not be the best options.
The issue is that now teams are aware James is on the market and are assuming he will soon be released. The 49ers currently have four backs on the roster not including James. Someone is not making it to training camp and if San Francisco is ready to move on from James, he will gone whether a deal is found or not.