Ravens Eyeing Ja’Wuan James As Ronnie Stanley Insurance

Ronnie Stanley has played one game since an October 2020 ankle injury sidetracked his career, suiting up for the Ravens’ opener last season but missing the rest of the 2021 campaign due to more ankle trouble. The Ravens are hoping their highest-paid offensive lineman returns to start this season, but after Stanley said he was rushed back in 2021, the team is proceeding cautiously.

The former top-10 pick has undergone three ankle surgeries since the initial injury, and he is coming off a 68-snap season. The Ravens’ backup plan, however, looks to be a player who has dealt with worse injury trouble. If Stanley is not ready to return to start this season, Ja’Wuan James is the favorite to be Baltimore’s left tackle starter, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

James, 30, has Stanley beat for unavailability. Making their biggest attempt to address a long-troublesome right tackle position, the Broncos gave James a four-year, $51MM deal in 2019. James played all of 63 snaps in Denver, suffering a knee injury in Week 1 of the 2019 season. That malady kept James out most of that year. After the ex-Dolphins first-rounder opted out in 2020, an offsite Achilles tear last May led him out of Denver. The Ravens signed James shortly after the Broncos cut him, giving him a two-year deal for stashing purposes. The team will be expecting a return on investment in Year 2 of this deal.

The Ravens gave James some late-season practice time last year, opening his IR-return window. Months later, James participated at Baltimore’s minicamp. John Harbaugh said last month he did not notice the veteran tackle’s Achilles issue, but padded practices will certainly reveal more about James’ viability with the Ravens. The Dolphins used James as their right tackle from 2014-18, and the Broncos had no intention of moving him. A left tackle gig, following this extensive run of absences, would be an interesting development. If James is not ready to go come September, the Ravens could also cut their losses and save $3MM.

While James looms as an atypical fill-in option, the Ravens also re-signed their primary 2021 right tackle — Patrick Mekari — and drafted mammoth Minnesota tackle Daniel Faalele in Round 4. The team was linked to earlier-round tackles but waited until Day 3 to address the spot. Mekari, who has primarily played center and right tackle, appears an ideal swing option for Baltimore. The Ravens signed Morgan Moses to replace Mekari at right tackle.

The team also would prefer to give the 380-pound Faalele a redshirt year of sorts, Zrebiec adds. Given the injury toll teams take up front, that might be difficult to do, as the Ravens will need to carry Faalele on its 53-man roster. But it appears the ex-Golden Gopher is viewed more as a project, with Zrebiec referencing the Eagles’ Jordan Mailata developmental program.

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