Ja'Wuan James

Ravens Reduce Roster To 53

The Ravens cut down their roster to 53 players today, with the team making the following transactions:

Released

Waived/Injured

Placed on Reserve/NFI

The team also announced a handful of previously reported transactions, which you can find here.

Obviously Pernell and Levine are the two major names on this list, but there’s a chance the veterans land back in Baltimore once the team places a handful of players on IR.

Pernell spent the past two seasons in Baltimore, starting 20 of his 22 appearances. In those 22 games, the 32-year-old collected 53 tackles and six sacks. The veteran also started his career with the Ravens before bouncing between the Bears and Washington. Levine, meanwhile, isn’t a stranger to bouncing on and off the Ravens roster, but he’s still managed to miss only one regular season game for the organization since 2013. That missed game actually came in 2020, when the special teams ace finished with only seven tackles.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/22/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ravens Officially Sign Ja’Wuan James

It’s officially official. On Thursday, free agent offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James inked his Ravens contract. 

James was cut loose by the Broncos earlier this year after suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon. The injury happened outside of the team facility, so he still has some business to settle with his former club. Given the nature of the injury, most assumed that James would spend the year rehabbing before signing his next deal in 2022. Instead, the Ravens moved quickly to sign him to a two-year deal worth up to $9MM in total.

James could even suit up sometime this year, according to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. If James can stay healthy and return to the form he exhibited in South Beach, this could prove to be one of the savviest signings of the year. James’ last full season came in 2018 with the Dolphins. In that year, Pro Football Focus measured the former first-round pick as a top-35 tackle. He’s been a starter ever since he entered the league — save for his stints on the IR.

For now, longtime Steelers starter Alejandro Villanueva is ticketed to handle the right tackle job with Ronnie Stanley returning to his spot on the left side.

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Ravens’ Ja’Wuan James Could Play In 2021?

The Ravens recently signed Ja’Wuan James to a two-year deal worth around $9MM. It’ll pay him a minimum salary in 2021 with around $8MM coming in 2022, as James of course tore his Achilles earlier this offseason while working out away from the Broncos’ facility.

Denver then cut him while voiding his hefty salary. James has since filed a grievance looking to recover $10MM in 2021 salary and $5MM in 2022 salary, but in the meantime is a member of the Ravens. It was initially assumed Baltimore signed him as a long-term future investment, but it turns out he could return to play sooner than previously thought.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said yesterday that James hasn’t been ruled out for 2021 and could return to the field in November of December, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That being said, Harbaugh added it’s not something they’re counting on, just that it’s a possibility.

The Ravens also signed Alejandro Villanueva to be their new starting tackle opposite Ronnie Stanley after trading Orlando Brown Jr., but it’s possible James will be viewed as an upgrade over Villanueva once he’s healthy.

James’ time in Denver was plagued by injuries, but he was a very solid starter for Miami before that.

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Ravens To Sign Ja’Wuan James

In a surprise move, the Ravens have agreed to sign offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). James is unlikely to play anytime soon, due to his ruptured Achilles. Still, the Ravens moved to sign him with the hope that he’ll be 100% healthy for 2022. The deal could pay up to $9MM in total. 

[RELATED: James Files Grievance Against Broncos]

The deal is still pending a physical, though the exam will account for James’ primary injury. If all goes well, James will put pen to paper this week and collect $500K in guaranteed money for 2021. In essence, he’s getting $500K to rehab under team supervision this year and agreeing to play for $8MM in 2022. Beyond that, James can reach the full $9MM via incentives.

After spending his first five years with the Dolphins, James inked a four-year, $51MM deal with Denver to serve as their long-term starter. But, due to knee injuries, the former first-round pick only appeared in three games in 2019. Then, he opted out of the 2020 season. Now, he’s moving on to Baltimore, though he’s still hashing out some financial matters with his old club.

The Ravens see James as a potential heir to the right tackle job. They’ve got Alejandro Villanueva under contract for the next two years, but he’s unlikely to match Orlando Brown‘s level of performance. James, in theory, could provide better protection in 2022 with Villanueva serving as a backup.

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Former Broncos OL Ja’Wuan James Files Grievance

Offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James has filed a grievance against the Broncos (via PFT). The offensive lineman is seeking to recover $10MM of his 2021 salary, plus $5MM in 2022 salary.

James’ 2021 pay was guaranteed for skill and injury while $5MM of his ’22 salary was guaranteed for injury. The Broncos say they owe James nothing, because his workout injury happened outside of the team facility. James, meanwhile, contends that he was working out in a fashion that was “specifically authorized” by the club. Furthermore, he was working out with other Broncos teammates. And, on top of all of that, James claims that the Broncos’ facilities were not in compliance with Colorado’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.

In the filing, James’ attorneys noted a May 5 NFL memo which noted that workout injuries outside of facilities “specifically or as specifically authorized by his club are considered ‘football-related injuries.’” The Broncos placed James on the reserve/non-football injury list two days later. And, on May 14, the Broncos cut James.

In response, the Broncos will likely argue that his non-facility workout was strictly voluntary. And, as a result, they’re not responsible.

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Former Broncos OL Ja’Wuan James Considering Grievance

The Ja’Wuan James/Broncos battle could get messy. A source tells ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the former Broncos offensive lineman is “strongly considering filing a grievance through the NFLPA over potential lost wages of up to $10M” (Twitter link).

To review: James suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon while working out away from the Broncos’ team facility, leading to the player’s release yesterday. The front office will likely move to void James’ $10.58MM salary, something that wouldn’t have been feasible had James suffered the injury at the Broncos’ facility. The NFL recently reiterated these risks in a memo, mentioning James by name and noting that teams “would have “no contractual obligation” to pay players like James who were injured away from the team facilities” (via ESPN).

Following fellow Bronco DaeSean Hamilton‘s offsite ACL tear on Friday, James tweeted the NFLPA needs to have players’ backs after advising them to boycott voluntary offseason workouts. The NFLPA had previously sent out a memo noting that it was “gutless” of the league to use these injuries as scare tactics in an attempt to lure players back to team facilities.

Denver had previously placed James on its reserve/NFI list, laying the groundwork for yesterday’s move. The remaining $9MM in prorated signing bonus money will be due. Fowler notes that the organization does have the option of throwing him some extra cash on the way out, so the two sides could still theoretically come to an agreement before James officially files a grievance.

After spending the first five years of his career in Miami, James inked a four-year, $51MM deal with Denver in 2019. James was ticketed to be the Broncos’ long-term starter, but knee injuries in 2019 limited the former first-round pick to only three games. Because of his 2020 opt-out and this Achilles development, the 29-year-old lineman’s Denver career will be capped at 63 snaps. James underwent surgery yesterday and is now officially a free agent.

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Broncos Release T Ja’Wuan James

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 MassieCameron 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.

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Broncos Place Ja’Wuan James On Reserve/NFI List

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.

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Broncos T Ja’Wuan James Tears Achilles

8:31pm: James might not miss the entire season, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk). Doctors have told James that they are hopeful he can return at some point this season, though doctors will have a better idea of his prognosis when he undergoes surgery later this week.

Mike Klis of 9News.com confirms that the Broncos are indeed actively making calls in search of a new RT as they await word on James (Twitter link).

4:13pm: The Broncos are set to go another season without their high-priced right tackle. Ja’Wuan James suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

James was training away from the team’s facility, which will put his $10MM base salary in jeopardy. The veteran right tackle signed a big-ticket deal with the Broncos in 2019, but he missed almost all of that season and opted out in 2020. Now, it looks like the 29-year-old blocker will miss the entire 2021 season as well.

Denver has been unable to fill its right tackle post for the better part of a decade. Moving three-year right tackle starter Orlando Franklin to guard in 2014, the Broncos have used a different Week 1 right tackle in each of the past eight seasons. This instability led to the team giving James a four-year, $51MM contract two years ago. However, that streak will reach nine in 2021. Elijah Wilkinson, the Broncos’ primary right tackle of the past two years, signed with the Bears this offseason.

Knee injuries kept James off the field for all but 63 snaps in 2019. The former Dolphins first-rounder opened that season as the Broncos’ right tackle starter but went down in Week 1 and endured setbacks as he attempted to come back. While Wilkinson and Demar Dotson worked as James fill-ins last season, Calvin Anderson is set to play that role now. The Broncos tendered Anderson as an ERFA in March. A UDFA out of Texas, Anderson played in 16 games last season and started two of those.

This is a tough blow for both parties. The Broncos passed on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, despite rampant issues at right tackle, presumably in large part because of James’ impending return. James’ injury certainly provides a bad look for the NFLPA, which advised its workforce to boycott OTAs. James’ 2020 numbers tolled to 2021, because of his opt-out, but this development may well end his Broncos career at just 63 snaps.

The Broncos will look to the veteran market, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. They did so last year, signing Dotson. Several notable options remain available. Dotson joins former Chiefs All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency. The latter is coming off back surgery, however. Ex-Bears tackles Bobby Massie and now Charles Leno are free agents, with Chicago releasing both this offseason. Cameron Fleming, Dennis Kelly and Ricky Wagner are also unattached. All were right tackle starters in 2020. However, Wagner — a Packers cap casualty — is considering retirement. Jason Peters has played left tackle for most of his NFL life, but the perennial Pro Bowler agreed to play guard last offseason and hopes to play in 2021.

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