Running back LaMichael James, who was granted his release by the 49ers on Monday, went unclaimed on waivers Tuesday. That makes James, a second-round draft pick for the 49ers in 2012, a free agent.
James had been the team’s No. 3 option at tailback and No. 2 option at punt returner. The 49ers have just two tailbacks on the 53-man roster and have made no indication whether they will add another. Running back Kendall Gaskins is on their practice squad, and they can add him to the 53-man roster at any point this week.
The team also could move Marcus Lattimore from the non-football injury list to the active roster after Week 6.
James played well when filling in for injured Kendall Hunter late in 2012 but had been seldom-used since then and had suffered an injury in each of his three offseasons with the 49ers. He was clearly behind No. 2 running back Carlos Hyde, who had an impressive debut in Dallas in averaging 7.1 yards a carry. Another rookie, Bruce Ellington, handled punt returns.
Hyde is listed as the backup kick returner on the team’s revised depth chart; Perrish Cox is the backup punt returner.
Any team that had claimed James would have had to have picked up the remaining two years of his rookie contract, which averaged $717,000 per season.
Wrote James on Twitter: “Football is a sport I love but it definitely doesn't define me as a person I have so many things in life to be thankful for.”