The Achilles’ tendon tear Ja’Wuan James suffered earlier this week has become a critical event in this NFL offseason, due to the veteran right tackle going down away from the Broncos’ facility.
Although there was some uncertainty regarding the veteran blocker’s availability in 2021, the Broncos placed James on the season-ending reserve/non-football injured list, Mike Klis of 9News reports. This opens up a roster spot but, more significantly, shields the Broncos from the obligation to pay James his $10MM base salary. It is not yet known, however, if the Broncos will withhold that salary.
The team could also go after $3MM of James’ $12MM signing bonus as well, but the former first-round pick’s Denver stay is likely over. It did not go well. Adrift at right tackle dating back to the Peyton Manning years, the Broncos attempted to solve this perennial issue by giving James a four-year, $51MM deal in 2019. However, knee trouble and a 2020 opt-out have limited James to 63 snaps as a Bronco.
Not paying James the $10MM would free up some cap space for the Broncos, who held the second-most room ($25MM-plus) before James went down. This would allow for funds to acquire a replacement; Bobby Massie and Dennis Kelly are set to meet with the team. The Broncos are not yet certain to release James, per Klis. Doing so would trigger a $9MM dead-money hit, if they do not go after part of his signing bonus.
In the wake of James’ injury, the NFL and NFLPA released statements regarding their most recent contentious issue. The union has called for a boycott of voluntary offseason workouts; the Broncos were the first team to indicate they would stand with the NFLPA’s proposed boycott. While some Broncos have reported to the facility, James was training away from Broncos headquarters because of the boycott. The league and union remain at odds on this matter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.