Finally Gaining Release from 49ers Could Come Back to Haunt LaMichael James

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystSeptember 8, 2014

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To this point, the NFL career of running back LaMichael James hasn't gone according to plan, so much so that the former Oregon star requested his release from the San Francisco 49ers.

Well, as the old saying goes, "be careful what you wish for," because now that James is a free agent, it may not be long before he wishes he was back holding down a bench with his butt in the Bay Area.

As Marc Sessler of NFL.com reported, the 49ers granted James' request to be let go by the team, a move that was lauded by James' agent:

According to Eric Branch of The San Francisco Chronicle, Sperbeck believed that it was a move that suited both sides:

That remains to be seen.

Granted, it had become clear that James' role in San Francisco was virtually non-existent. James had fallen to the bottom of the pecking order at running back for the 49ers, managing only a pair of carries in the team's Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

After losing punt return duties to Bruce Ellington, it had become clear that James just wasn't in head coach Jim Harbaugh's plans in San Fran, an unceremonious end to the tenure of a former second-round pick who electrified college football for three seasons from 2009-2011.

The problem now is that it's hard to see a future for James that's any less cloudy than it was in San Francisco.

It hasn't gotten any easier for running backs to find work in the NFL in recent years, especially diminutive "scat back" types with virtually invisible professional resumes who have battled injuries since entering the league.

Yes, James showed a few flashes of that open-field ability that was on display so regularly in Eugene with the 49ers, but they were so few and far between that it's hard to imagine his phone ringing off the hook right now.

This isn't to say that there won't be interest. The Arizona Cardinals have an unsettled situation at running back thanks to Andre Ellington's balky foot, and in some respects James and Ellington are similar players.

With Ray Rice released and Bernard Pierce in head coach John Harbaugh's doghouse after an early fumble last Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens appear set to hand the keys to the ground game to journeyman Justin Forsett.

Then, of course, there's the Philadelphia Eagles, where James would be reunited with former head coach Chip Kelly.

It didn't take long for folks to start connecting those particular dots:

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com also believes it's a move the Eagles may well explore, especially with Polk battling a bad hamstring:

With just three running backs on the roster, the Eagles either have to stick it out with Polk until he is ready, or move in a different direction.

That direction very well could be James, who excelled under Kelly during their time together at Oregon. Signing James would give the Eagles a healthy third-string running back, an option out of the backfield, and a potential solution at kick returner. While James' experience on kickoffs is limited, he does have returns of 62 and 41 yards in 26 career attempts.

However, assuming that were to come to pass, what would change exactly, other than James' zip code and the amount of state income tax pulled from his paycheck?

He'll be no closer to playing time in Philly than he would have been in San Francisco, both of which offer James a better chance at winning football games than in Arizona or Baltimore. Even in the latter two locales, James' playing time would all but certainly be as either a third-down type or short-term fix.

In short, it's hard to imagine a situation in which James' NFL prospects are going to be any better than there were where he was.

And that brings us to another old saying: "The grass is always greener on the other side."

Until you get there, that is.

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.

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