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Is James a step closer to trade?

In a predictable development, running back/returner LaMichael James is staying away from the San Francisco 49ers' offseason conditioning program, which started Monday, a league source confirmed.

The Sacramento Bee reported last week the 49ers were shopping the little-used 2012 second-round pick. A league source said James would welcome a trade if it meant more playing time. The source would not say if James requested the trade.

This move, even though it's missing out on a voluntary program, is another sign James is interested in moving on. The only part of the offseason program that is mandatory is the June 17-19 minicamp.

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.

The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. 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.

James likely wouldn't command much in return for a trade. Perhaps the 49ers could use James as part of a trade in an attempt to move up in the May 8-10 draft.