Last offseason, the 49ers were content to let Ted Ginn Jr. test the market and see if he could find a decent deal somewhere else. After a week and a half, the 49ers re-signed Ginn to a one-year deal. I was excited at the time because Ginn had been a monster in the return game in 2011. Unfortunately, 2012 saw Ginn and the return unit regress to the point where LaMichael James eventually took his job as kick returner.
Matt Maiocco is now reporting that the 49ers "have not placed a high priority on re-signing [Ginn]". This is not exactly a shocking revelation. After all, the team appeared content to let him walk last year, so why would this year be any different?
Maiocco's source reported that the team would look to LaMichael James and Kyle Williams to compete for the return roles. Williams had 13 kick returns and four punt returns in 2012, with most of his kick returns coming between Week 2 and Week 6. James had 14 regular season kick returns and seven playoff kick returns. James took over the kick return duties from Ginn in Week 13, and never looked back. Ginn returned the last kick in the Super Bowl, but otherwise, this was James job.
Neither James nor Williams were big punt returners in 2012, with James struggling enough in the preseason that he did not get any regular season opportunities. I imagine he will get plenty of work this offseason and into the preseason as a punt returner. I think James is likely to retain the kick returner job, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to grab hold of the punt return job as well. That will be a position battle we will track closely heading into training camp.