2013 NFL free agents: Ted Ginn to test market for return specialists

Ezra Shaw

As we enter the 2013 league year, we break down San Francisco 49ers free agent Ted Ginn Jr.

As the year's have gone on, the kick return specialist has become an appealing commodity. With the well-balanced, three-phase teams in the league, the field position battle has gained more respect. Of the dynamic role players at the position, Ted Ginn Jr. has become one of the more well-known weapons.

For more on the San Francisco 49ers, visit Niners Nation

Unfortunately for his career, Ginn was originally intended to be more than a return specialist when he entered the league.

In the 2007 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected the Ohio State wide receiver with the ninth overall pick. He was a track star and first-team All-American with the Buckeyes. He was perceived as an explosive big-play threat, which is what led to him being a top 10 choice.

He immediately stepped into the starting lineup, providing straight-line speed at wide receiver and dynamism as a return man.

His rookie year statistics were pretty underwhelming, though, Ginn did return a punt for a touchdown. It was clear that he was more effective as a return man than a receiver. Ginn was not a crisp route-runner, he did not always look for the ball and his hands were questionable at best.

It only took three seasons before the Dolphins determined that they had seen enough.

In 2010, Miami traded the former first-rounder to San Francisco for a fifth-round choice in that year's draft. This turned out to be a smart play by the 49ers, who got a top-tier return specialist for next to nothing. In his first year with the team, Ginn averaged 13.3 yards per punt return, and even brought one back for a score.

For a team that was struggling to put points on the board and win the field position battle, Ginn was a spark plug that the fans were excited to have.

In his second year with the 49ers, the team hired Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh as their new architect. After extensive self-evaluations, Ginn remained with the Niners to play out the final year of his original Miami contract. The 49ers electric return man got on Harbaugh's good side immediately.

Ginn returned 29 kicks for 800 yards and a touchdown along with 38 punts for 466 yards and a touchdown in 2011. His numbers dropped last season, and the 49ers split kick return duties between Ginn, LaMichael James and Kyle Williams. Ginn returned only 11 kicks last year, but kept his punt return duties with 32 for 326 total yards and no touchdowns.

Teams looking at Ginn will focus solely on his value as a return specialist. As a receiver, Ginn hasn't produced much since his 2008 season in Miami. He caught two passes for one yard with the 49ers offense in 2012.

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