Richie James Jr.

49ers Waive WR Richie James

SATURDAY: The 49ers will drop James from their roster for the time being. San Francisco waived the wide receiver with an injury designation and re-signed wideout River Cracraft to take James’ roster spot.

FRIDAY: As the preseason winds down, the 49ers have suffered a significant injury. Receiver Richie James has a knee issue that requires surgery, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Friday.

Shanahan said the injury will keep James sidelined for at least six weeks. A hamstring injury limited James to 11 games last season, but he still managed to play a pretty big role on offense. After serving mostly as a return man during his first two years in the pros, James was thrust into a more prominent position due to San Francisco’s health issues at receiver.

He ended up finishing with 23 catches for 394 yards and a touchdown in those 11 games. Often used as a deep threat, he averaged a robust 17.1 yards per reception. His true breakout came during a Thursday Night Football game you may recall, when he had 184 yards against the Packers.

After returning 33 in 2019, James only returned six punts last year as he focused on his receiving work. The timeline presented by Shanahan means he’ll miss at least the first handful of regular season games. He’ll presumably go on IR after the cutdown to 53 so that he’ll be able to play again this season.

It’s a tough break for the Middle Tennessee product as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. He was a seventh-round pick back in 2018. James was expected to be the punt returner again in 2021, a role which now will likely fall to veteran Travis Benjamin.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Place Tavon Austin On IR

It’s a bad year to be a 49ers wide receiver. Nick Wagoner of reports that Tavon Austin, whom San Francisco signed last month due to injuries to other wideouts, is headed to IR with a knee injury (Twitter link). Austin was signed on the same day as J.J. Nelson, who was recently placed on IR as well.

It’s an especially tough break for Austin, who was performing well in training camp and who may have been a valuable chess piece in head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. Deebo Samuel appears unlikely to be available at the start of the season, first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk‘s hamstring injury makes his status uncertain, and Jalen Hurd will miss the entire campaign due to an ACL tear, so Austin may actually have been in line for a sizable role.

The good news for the Niners is that Richie James has been activated from the NFI list. James had been dealing with a broken wrist, but it appears that he is on track for Week 1. He has served as the club’s primary return specialist over the last two seasons, and with Austin out of the picture, it seems likely that he will reprise that role in 2020.

The 49ers, though, could still use some depth at WR, and one wonders if the recently-released Mohamed Sanu could spark GM John Lynch‘s interest. As Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk writes, Lynch did not rule out a potential Sanu signing when asked about it this afternoon. Sanu played for Shanahan in Atlanta in 2016, when the latter was working as the Falcons’ OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers KR/WR Richie James Suffers Broken Wrist

More difficult news for the 49ers on the injury front. WR1 Deebo Samuel suffered a broken foot earlier this week and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the regular season, and now Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reports that fellow wideout Richie James has suffered a broken wrist (Twitter link).

James will be sidelined for at least two months, so his availability for Week 1 is also in doubt. And while he is not nearly as important to the 49ers’ offense as Samuel is — James has appeared in less than 20% of the club’s offensive snaps over his first two years in the league and has just 15 catches for 295 yards and two TDs in that time — he has served as San Francisco’s primary kick and punt returner.

In 2019, he averaged eight yards per punt return and 21.4 yards per kick return. Those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but they’re not bad either. If James is forced to miss time, Dante Pettis or Trent Taylor may get a crack at return duties.

The 49ers selected James in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. His injury comes at an especially unfortunate time, as he may have had an outside chance at more training camp reps at WR given Samuel’s absence.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Sign Three Draft Picks

The 49ers signed a trio of rookies this morning. The team announced that they’ve officially inked defensive back Tarvarius Moore, wideout Richie James Jr., and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor to four-year deals.

Moore is the most notable name on the list, as the Southern Mississippi product was selected in the third-round (95th overall) of last week’s draft. The rookie played safety in college, but the 49ers are planning on switching him to cornerback. Moore is 6-foot-2 and ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, giving the team hope that he’ll be able to stick around at his new position. During the 2017 campaign, the safety compiled 87 tackles, three interceptions, and 10 passes defended.

James Jr., who was selected in the seventh round, set a number of Middle Tennessee State records during his collegiate career, finishing with 243 receptions for 3,249 yards and 23 touchdowns. He sustained a pair of broken collarbones during his time in college, including one last season. This injury ultimately led to James Jr. deciding to turn pro.

Taylor, a seventh-round pick out of Temple, compiled 41 tackles in 2017, his only season as a full-time starter.