Ja’Wuan James revealed Friday he underwent surgery to repair his torn Achilles’ tendon (Twitter link). He is also now a free agent. The Broncos released the veteran tackle late this afternoon, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
This will be a post-June 1 cut, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. The transaction will allow the Broncos to spread out the dead-money hit caused by James’ signing bonus. What may well become a contentious matter, however: James’ $10.58MM base salary. James suffering the injury while working out away from the Broncos’ facility leaves him vulnerable on this front.
The Broncos will likely move to void James’ salary, Klis adds (on Twitter). This will likely precede an NFLPA grievance, though that is not certain. Following fellow Bronco DaeSean Hamilton‘s offsite ACL tear Friday, James tweeted the NFLPA needs to have players’ backs after advising them to boycott voluntary offseason workouts. This figures to set off a bigger-picture issue, with Hamilton’s 2021 salary — worth more than $2MM — now in jeopardy as well. Both would have been protected had they been training at the Broncos’ facility, which the NFL reiterated in a memo following James’ injury.
Denver had previously placed James on its reserve/NFI list, laying the groundwork for Friday’s move. The remaining $9MM in prorated signing bonus money will be due. The Broncos could go after James’ 2021 prorated amount ($3MM), but Klis tweets that is unlikely. The post-June 1 move means the Broncos will be docked less than $5MM in dead-money charges. That number would have been considerably higher had James, whose salary was guaranteed for injury (an onsite injury, that is), opted to attend the team’s voluntary workouts.
James’ injury will mean the Broncos’ run of different Week 1 right tackle starters will reach nine. The team has moved on and is set to hold a Bobby Massie–Cameron Fleming competition come training camp. Both veterans signed earlier this week. Each worked as a starter last season, Massie for the Bears and Fleming with the Giants. Signed to a four-year, $51MM deal in 2019, James was ticketed to be the Broncos’ long-term starter. But knee injuries in 2019 limited the former first-round pick to three games that season. Because of his 2020 opt-out and this Achilles development, the 29-year-old lineman’s Denver career will be capped at 63 snaps.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.