- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Initial thoughts: There have been rumblings of James' unhappiness since last season. He has occasionally made cryptic remarks on Twitter and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have had to discuss his situation. At the combine in February, Baalke said James still had a place on the team. An NFL source said Wednesday night James would welcome a trade if he meant more playing time. The source would not say that James requested the trade. I don't get the sense the 49ers are suddenly going to play James more in 2014, so if he stays, he will continue to be dissatisfied with his playing time.
What can the 49ers get in return? I wouldn't think much. Just because James was a second-round pick in 2012, it doesn't mean the 49ers will get like value. Remember, the 49ers acquired quarterback Blaine Gabbert for a sixth-round pick this year. Three years ago, he was the No. 10 overall pick. I just don't see the market being high for a little-used running back/returner. Perhaps James could be used as a chip to move up in the draft a bit. It wasn't a good sign that his college coach, Chip Kelly, traded for Darren Sproles instead of James this year.
Would the 49ers miss him? Not really. The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. I could see the team drafting a cornerback or a receiver who can help as a return man.