Should the Bengals Consider LaMichael James?


Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James (23) runs the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today the San Francisco 49ers released running back LaMichael James.

James assumedly asked for his release based on the realization that his opportunities would be few and far between considering the 49ers have running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde ahead of him while still possessing the rights to Marcus Lattimore.

Assuming James is looking for a bigger role, the Bengals may not be the best destination for him unless they plan to give him a shot as a returner and as the team’s third down running back.  But if not, James could be a dynamic weapon for this team as he is a capable runner and returner while also possessing the ability to catch the ball.  James isn’t the biggest player at 5’9″, 190 pounds, so he would probably struggle as a pass protector, which would certainly make all of the Bengals’ current backs better options in this way; though if anyone could find a niche for the young, dynamic weapon, it would be Hue Jackson.

If they actually chose to acquire James, the Bengals would probably have to move him ahead of both Rex Burkhead and Brandon Tate in the running back and returner pecking orders respectively.  They would also need to prioritize James’ skill set versus the all-around game of Burkhead, assuming Burkhead even finds a role this year.  Although James’ role would be smaller and the Bengals would have to make some changes within the roster, the team could certainly drop cornerback Onterio McCalebb, who was recently added to the 53-man roster, for James.  This would mean the Bengals would run with three defensive tackles in the meantime as they released Christo Bilukidi in order to make room for McCalebb.  It would also put to rest any thoughts of signing Kevin Vickerson, which was reported as a possibility last week.

When considering James, the Bengals would need to decide between offensive depth vs. defensive depth, Burkhead’s solid all-around play vs. James’ dynamic weaponry, and between Tate’s reliability vs. James ability (of note, James finished with slightly better return averages than did Tate last year).  It’s an intriguing choice, but in the end I don’t see the Bengals taking the bait while James may find better opportunities elsewhere.