Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James (23) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Now that OTAs are getting underway, the next big wave of roster moves will come after June 1st, when free agent pickups can no longer count against a team’s 2015 compensatory draft pick formula.
In addition to that, teams will get a closer look at their rosters on the field, and be able to expose whatever needs remain after the initial wave of free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.
For the Denver Broncos, one position that has a lot more questions than answers at this point is at running back, where Montee Ball has a stranglehold on the starting job but everything else is up for grabs.
Ronnie Hillman, a third round pick in 2012, is the current most experienced player behind Ball, and the Broncos have only one other back with an NFL carry in 2013 undrafted free agent C.J. Anderson, a former Cal Golden Bear.
With four other former undrafted free agents competing for a roster spot, the Broncos certainly have openings at running back, and it’s been speculated the team could look to add a veteran back after June 1st, and that seems almost like a certainty at this point.
One team’s situation to monitor is that of San Francisco, which has an over-abundance of running backs after drafting Carlos Hyde in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Hyde is a powerful back who will eventually take over for Frank Gore as the featured back, presumably, but San Francisco also has Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, and they also keep a fullback or two on the roster.
After also drafting return specialist/wide receiver Bruce Ellington, the Niners may be inclined to keep just three backs on the roster and it looks like former third round pick LaMichael James, the ex-Oregon Ducks Heisman finalist, will be on the outside looking in.
He forfeit $50,000 in workout bonuses earlier this offseason for the birth of his child, and reportedly has been looking for a way out of San Francisco.
With only Ronnie Hillman providing the speed element, and the kick/punt return spot more wide open than ever, the Broncos are an ideal landing spot for James in a potential trade.
Not only do they afford him an opportunity to immediately be a #2 back, but they could also use him as a return specialist.
How could the Broncos afford James?
Well, he’s currently in the third year of his rookie contract, which will expire after the 2015 season. He is slated to make just over $640,000 this season, a number that is more than affordable for the Broncos which is followed by a 2015 cap number of roughly $793,ooo.
In essence, James is a very tradeable asset with a low value because of his lack of involvement in the San Francisco offense.
The Broncos have seven picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, none in the fourth round but two in the fifth. Oddly enough, the Broncos owe their 2015 fourth round pick to the Niners which they used to trade up to select wide receiver Cody Latimer, and they obtained an additional 2015 5th round pick from the Chicago Bears.
An appropriate trade for a running back with the current value of James would be a conditional 5th round pick, potentially giving the Niners the higher of the two selections depending on some type of attainable incentives for James, such as a pre-determined number of snaps or what have you.
This would be a really wise move for Denver. James was a player that I had targeted coming out in 2012 as a great fit for Denver’s offense, even before they had Peyton Manning and the high-octane flow.
I would love to see John Elway pull this kind of deal off.