Ja'Wuan James

Tackle Notes: Saints, Bulaga, Bolles, Eagles

The Saints have encountered more offensive line injury trouble, and it comes at a bad time. Left tackle Terron Armstead is believed to have suffered a high ankle sprain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The standout blocker will miss Thursday’s game against the Falcons, and while New Orleans’ subsequent mini-bye would give the seventh-year blocker a chance to return against the 49ers, these are usually multi-week injuries. With left guard Andrus Peat sidelined with a broken arm, the Saints may be missing the left side of their high-end offensive line when they face the 49ers’ dominant pass rush in Week 14. Journeyman Patrick Omameh, whom the Giants cut after his short run as one of their guard starters, replaced Armstead on Sunday.

A lot of news affecting tackles around the league has emerged. Here is the latest:

  • Bryan Bulaga‘s knee injury appears to be a minor issue. The Packers‘ longtime right tackle left Sunday night’s game in San Francisco, but Rapoport notes (via Twitter) he is believed to be battling an MCL sprain instead of ACL trouble. Bulaga will likely miss some time but looks to be able to return this season.
  • As an Eagles season with Super Bowl aspirations veers closer to one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent NFL history, Philadelphia at least will likely have its Pro Bowl right tackle back this week. Lane Johnson expects to be cleared from concussion protocol on Tuesday, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Johnson missed Sunday’s loss against the Seahawks.
  • Vic Fangio appears ready to either bench underwhelming left tackle Garett Bolles or minimize his playing time. The Broncos’ first-year coach said Monday he’s going to shake up left tackle, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. This will be contingent on right tackle Ja’Wuan James‘ availability. Fangio said the seldom-seen free agent signing has been cleared from his latest injury, but it doesn’t look like James is a lock to return to action. He would likely play right tackle, with current right tackle Elijah Wilkinson shifting to the left side. If James returns, Bolles may be set for the first benching of his three-year career. The former first-round pick has not come especially close to living up to expectations, and the Broncos are unlikely to pick up his fifth-year option.
  • The Bears will be without their right tackle for a bit. Bobby Massie suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants and will miss a few weeks, Rapoport tweets. This is Massie’s fourth season as Chicago’s starting right tackle; he re-signed this offseason on a four-year extension. Massie has only missed two games in his Bears tenure.
  • After their third straight 34-point game, the Jets are likely to have to again reconfigure their offensive line. Rookie right tackle Chuma Edoga suffered an MCL sprain, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). Adam Gase confirmed the 2019 draftee is dealing with an MCL issue and is week-to-week. The Jets have made numerous changes on their offensive front this season. Benched right tackle Brandon Shell, who came in for Kelvin Beachum after he suffered an ankle malady Sunday, may be called upon to re-enter the lineup. Beachum suffered a sprained ankle but may not miss any time.

Contract Details: Smith, James, Wake

The latest details on deals from around the NFL:

Broncos To Add T Ja’Wuan James

After a quiet Monday afternoon, the Broncos are spending big as the night progresses. They have reached an agreement to bring in Ja’Wuan James, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This will be a massive deal, with Schefter adding the five-year Dolphins blocker will become the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle. James will receive a four-year, $52MM deal, with $32MM of that being guaranteed. This comes barely an hour after the Broncos authorized a three-year, $33MM deal for Kareem Jackson.

Denver’s big move figures to stop its streak of one-and-done right tackle starters. Since Orlando Franklin was moved to guard before the 2014 season, the Broncos have used a different primary right tackle each year. This will mark the sixth straight season the Broncos will have a new Week 1 right tackle, but James has been a target for a while.

The Broncos had a trade in place to acquire James from the Dolphins, who would have gotten C.J. Anderson in the 2018 proposal, but Miami nixed the move and kept James as its right tackle starter. Although the Dolphins are taking a rebuilding approach this offseason, Chris Grier said at the Combine they wanted to retain James.

This represents a major markup at the right tackle position, with Lane Johnson previously being the only eight-figure-per-year player here. James’ $13MM-AAV deal will easily usurp the Eagles stalwart’s status ($11.25MM per year) at this spot.

Pro Football Focus has measured James, a 2014 first-round pick, as an above-average tackle. He graded as a top-35 tackle last season. The former Tennessee Volunteer, though, has encountered injury troubles. He missed eight games in 2017 and nine in 2015. Other than that, the 26-year-old blocker was Miami’s starter since Week 1 of his rookie year.

Denver pivoted from Franklin to Chris Clark to Ty Sambrailo to Michael Schofield to Donald Stephenson to Menelik Watson to Jared Veldheer. That succession will stop with James, with this contract tethering him to the Broncos for years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Rumors: Amos, Barrett, Paradis, James

Here’s the latest on the Broncos, with all links going to Troy Renck of Denver7’s Twitter:

Raiders Targeting Trent Brown, Ja’Wuan James

The Raiders may have just traded away their best offensive lineman when they agreed to ship Kelechi Osemele to the Jets, but they still want to fortify the O-line in free agency. Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link), offensive tackle Trent Brown is high atop Oakland’s wish list.

Brown had an excellent platform season in his first (and likely final) year with the Patriots in 2018, starting all 19 regular and postseason games for New England en route to a Super Bowl championship. Pro Football Focus was bullish on his performance, ranking him 32nd among 80 eligible linemen.

The Buccaneers just inked Donovan Smith to a three-year pact worth $41.25MM ($27MM guaranteed), and it would not be a surprise to see Brown top that figure in terms of years, AAV, and total guarantees. That is especially true given that he profiles as the best left tackle on the free agent market by a wide margin.

Rapoport confirms as much, tweeting that Brown could be among the highest-paid tackles in the league. He turns 26 next month and clearly has Pro Bowl upside. RapSheet also says Brown could make his decision early on in the tampering window, which opens in less than an hour. The Patriots declined to use the franchise tag on him but are still interested in re-signing him, and the Texans have some interest as well. Brown, though, may prefer a different destination, as Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets that head coach Jon Gruden does not plan to move 2018 first-round pick Kolton Miller from left tackle.

Per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oakland is also interested in Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James (Twitter link). New GM Mike Mayock is prioritizing the offensive tackle position, per Gehlken, and while Miami would like to retain James, the rebuilding Fins may find it difficult to do so.

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Dolphins, Xavien Howard Discussing Deal

The Dolphins met with cornerback Xavien Howard to discuss a new long-term deal, according to ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. Howard is set to enter the final year of his rookie deal this year, so a fresh contract could make sense for both sides.

Howard is expected to command at least $15MM annually on his next contract, but it’s unclear if Miami is willing to go that high. Some have speculated that Howard could be a trade candidate, but the Dolphins say he’s staying put.

Yes, I’m very confident that he’ll be there. Xavien has been in the building. He’s coming back, working out and getting in shape again after the Pro Bowl,” GM Chris Grier said. “He’s doing good. We’ve been hanging out around him. He wants to be a Miami Dolphin and we want him to be a Dolphin.”

If the Dolphins can’t hammer out a deal with Howard, they can wait until next year and potentially cuff him with the franchise tag. With club control beyond ’19, the Dolphins aren’t necessarily in any rush.

In a more pressing matter, the Dolphins want to hang on to right tackle Ja’Wuan James, an impending free agent. Unfortunately for Miami, things could get costly if he hits the open market.

Quality tackles are hard to come by, and Wolfe hears buzz at the combine that James could command upwards of $10MM/year. Two agents tell Wolfe that if they were representing James, they’d shoot to surpass the five-year, $47.5MM deal that Lions right tackle Rick Wagner signed two seasons ago. Beating that mark would make James the second-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lane Johnson. The Dolphins should know more this week when they meet with James’ reps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Want Ja’Wuan James Back

Set to become one of this year’s top free agents, Ja’Wuan James will have a familiar team pursuing him. The Dolphins are preparing a pitch to keep James, GM Chris Grier said (via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald).

However, Grier added that Miami’s new-look front office came to Indianapolis without having discussed terms with the right tackle. Grier plans to meet with James’ representation at the Combine.

James joins Donovan Smith and Daryl Williams as the top tackles on this year’s market, which is another thin contingent. With the Buccaneers ready to keep Smith via the franchise tag if they have to, the right tackles’ stock will rise. Williams is also coming off an injury-marred season, further elevating James’ earning potential. It would seemingly stand to take a lot for the Dolphins to keep their five-year right tackle off the market.

In advance of his age-27 season, James has also battled injuries — missing eight games in 2017 and nine in 2015 — but the former first-round pick suited up for 15 contests last season. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 34 overall tackle last season. Though James has not been a top-tier right tackle, he is a generally well-regarded option.

The Dolphins considered cutting James, prior to his fifth-year option vesting. They also discussed a deal to trade James to Denver for C.J. Anderson last year before nixing it. It appears Miami’s new regime will see what it will take to keep James in Miami.

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AFC East Notes: Brown, McDermott, Dolphins

Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown will soon be hitting free agency, but the 25-year-old sounds like he’s focused on staying in New England. Brown told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he’s seeking some “longevity” and a “great fit schematically,” and he specifically pointed to the Patriots.

“That’s definitely something I would love,” Brown said about sticking with the team (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “But hey, we’re going to cross that bridge when we get there.”

The six-foot-eight lineman has a solid season with the Patriots in 2018. After being acquired from the 49ers, Brown proceeded in start all 16 games for New England en route to a Super Bowl championship. Pro Football Focus was bullish on his performance, ranking him 32nd among 80 eligible linemen.

However, considering Brown’s performance, many thought the lineman may leave New England for a lucrative payday. In that scenario, the Patriots would presumably lean on 2018 first-round Isaiah Wynn, who missed his entire rookie campaign after having torn his Achilles during the preseason.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • The Dolphins will have a tough decision to make on free agent offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James, but it sounds like he has at least one fan in the team’s new offensive line coach, Pat Flaherty. “I think it keeps the continuity there, if we’re able to retain him,” Flaherty told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We sure hope he does [stay with Miami]. He’s a good football player. I’ve had an opportunity to go back and watch every game from 2018. He’s a fairly young guy also, so he has some things technique-wise that he can get better.” Agent Drew Rosenhaus (who does not represent James) recently predicted that the Dolphins would make 26-year-old the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL.
  • It’s been a bit more than two years since the Bills hired Sean McDermott as their head coach, and the team has seen a complete roster overhaul since that time. As Alper points out, the Bills are only rostering five players who preceded McDermott’s tenure: running back LeSean McCoy, defensive end Jerry Hughes, defensive end Shaq Lawson, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, and long snapper Reid Ferguson. The number would increase if the team retains any of their impending free agent offensive linemen: Ryan GroyJordan Mills and John Miller.
  • The Dolphins have hired Mike Judge as their new defensive quality control coach, according to agent Paul Sheehy’s Twitter. The former Patriots intern has spent the past 11 years as Navy’s fullback coach. The team compiled a 84-47 during his tenure.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Tannehill, Parker, Bills, Ivory, Jets, Maccagnan, Bowles

The Dolphins will have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason, including what to do with Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is set to have a cap hit of over $26MM in 2019, hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and hasn’t been great on the field even when he is. Deciding Tannehill’s fate “clearly tops” the list of Miami’s priorities for the offseason, according to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald, who writes “Tannehill would need to be exceptional when he returns from his shoulder injury” for the Dolphins to bring him back at that salary next year.

Tannehill missed the end of the 2016 season with a torn ACL, then missed all of the 2017 season when he re-tore the ACL. This year, Tannehill started the first five games, then went down with a mysterious shoulder injury. He’s been sidelined for four games, and it’s not clear when he’s coming back. It’s still very early, but at this point it would be a surprise if Tannehill is brought back at his current cap number. For what it’s worth, Beasley writes that the Dolphins like Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Speaking of decisions the Dolphins have to make, they’ll also have to decide the fate of receiver DeVante Parker and right tackle Ja’Wuan James this offseason, according to Beasley. Parker is owed $9.4MM next year, and Beasley writes that keeping him “seems unlikely now, but if he strings together several games like the one last Thursday in Houston (six catches, 134 yards), it becomes a strong consideration.” James will be a free agent after this season, and Beasley writes that “unless he’s great the final eight games, the Dolphins again figure to explore outside options” this March.
  • The Bills’ offense has already been an injured mess this year, and they got even more bad news today. Running back Chris Ivory “was taken to Erie County Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center, for evaluations on his left shoulder”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). It’s unclear the exact nature of the injury, but it seems clear Ivory will miss some time, and he’s been playing a fairly big role in the offense lately.
  • Jets GM Mike Maccagnan “was noticeably less effusive” when talking about Todd Bowles in his ‘state of the team’ press availability than he was in last year’s availability, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Cimini thinks that Maccagnan “is safe, no matter what” and is trying to separate himself from Bowles and from the narrative that the two are joined at the hip, in case Bowles needs to be fired. Bowles is on a very hot seat, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a change is made soon with the Jets suffering another loss today.

Dolphins Nixed James-For-Anderson Trade?

The Dolphins dangled right tackle Ja’Wuan James in trades before pulling back and seeing his fifth-year option vest. During one of those in discussions, the Broncos reportedly offered a familiar name to Dolphins brass.

Troy Renck of Denver7 reports the Broncos and Dolphins had a verbal agreement on a C.J. Anderson-for-James trade, but Miami nixed the deal. This would be an interesting exchange considering the Dolphins designed Anderson’s contract by creating a four-year, $18MM offer sheet the Broncos matched in 2016. Miami was reportedly interested in Anderson if Denver made him a free agent.

Two years and no guaranteed money remain on Anderson’s deal, and the sixth-year player has manageable $4.5MM cap numbers the next two seasons. Adam Gase and Eric Studesville coached Anderson in Denver, with Studesville now Miami’s running backs coach after a long run with the Broncos. Denver determined in March it wasn’t going to release its longtime starter, but it may still be open for business on an Anderson deal. Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson are the Broncos’ other backs.

The Broncos landed another right tackle via trade when they acquired Jared Veldheer from the Cardinals for a sixth-round pick. As of now, Veldheer has one year and $6.9MM left on his deal. James will make $9.341MM on the Year 5 option this season and has fared much better than Veldheer at right tackle, although each has struggled with injuries in recent years.

James, 25, has started for four seasons with the Dolphins, while the Broncos have had a different right tackle starter in Week 1 in each of the past five seasons. Veldheer may well extend that streak to six. The Dolphins moved to add Frank Gore at a cheaper rate — $1.1MM — and he will join Kenyan Drake in their backfield.

The Broncos’ primary ball-carrier since the 2014 season, Anderson is coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign. The 26-year-old running back successfully bounced back from a meniscus tear by playing 16 games last season. Renck writes a trade could still occur and wonders if the Broncos would augment their backfield through the draft in that event. Denver brought San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in for a visit last week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.