Ja'Wuan James

Dolphins To Place RT Ja’Wuan James On IR

The Dolphins will be without a key member of their offensive line for the rest of the season. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), the team has placed right tackle Ja’Wuan James on the injured reserve. Head coach Adam Gase told reporters yesterday that James could be shelved due to a hamstring injury. The Dolphins have activated safety T.J. McDonald off the reserve/suspended list to take his spot on the roster.

Ja'Wuan James (Vertical)James, a 2014 first-round pick out of Tennessee, started all eight games this season. Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance in 2017, ranking him 10th among 78 eligible tackle candidates. The lineman has been a mainstay on the Dolphins over the past four years, having started all 16 games in 2014 and 2016 (he missed nine games in 2015 due to a toe injury). The Dolphins had picked up James’ fifth-year option back in May, which is only guaranteed for injury. In other words, the lineman would have to pass a physical if the team wanted out of the $9.341MM obligation.

With only around $1MM in cap space, the Dolphins will be hard pressed to add reinforcement via free agency. Jesse Davis, who previously started a pair of games at offensive guard, will fill in for James at right tackle. James will join Anthony Steen and Eric Smith on the injured reserve, although Ted Larsen is expected to return from his biceps injury.

Shortly after signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins, McDonald was suspended eight games by the NFL. Following an impressive preseason, the 26-year-old ultimately signed a four-year extension with the organization. McDonald started 16 games for the Rams last season, compiling 64 tackles and six passes defended. He’ll look to displace Reshad Jones or Michael Thomas atop the depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ja’Wuan James Facing Season-Ending Injury?

Ja’Wuan James won’t play in the Dolphins’ Week 10 game against the Panthers on Monday night, and it’s possible the right tackle will miss the rest of the season.

Adam Gase said Friday (via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald) the fourth-year blocker could miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury. Ian Rapoport (Twitter link) said James is out indefinitely. Salguero notes the Dolphins are seeking out opinions from multiple doctors.

James has played in each of Miami’s eight games, and Gase described his play as being good in some of them. This injury is significant because of James’ contract status. The 2014 first-round pick has a fifth-year option of $9.341MM, but the Dolphins can cut bait on that amount before the start of the 2018 league year.

These options are guaranteed for injury only, so James would have to pass a physical for the team to jettison him free of charge. With that deadline nearly five months away, it would stand to reason James could recover from a hamstring malady by decision time.

Of course, the Dolphins don’t have a next-in-line right tackle to potentially replace James, and UFA solutions aren’t cheap. Dolphins OC Clyde Christensen said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the cap has limited the Dolphins’ ability to bring in a reliable backup to James; Miami holds barely $1MM in cap room. Former UDFA Jesse Davis will make his first start at right tackle on Monday. Davis has started two games at guard but will move to take James’ spot after Ted Larsen returned off IR.

James started 16 games in both 2014 and ’16 but played in only seven in 2015. A toe injury ended James’ sophomore NFL season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Fins, Ravens, Bills

The Steelers would like to sign contract-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt to an extension before the start of the regular season, reports Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 24-year-old is clearly open to a new deal with the Steelers, telling Fittipaldo: “I would love it here. It’s a blessing if they see me being here for the long term. I love the organization.” Locking up Tuitt could cost the Steelers $8MM to $9MM per year, and it probably won’t become a priority until later in the summer, writes Fittipaldo. Tuitt, a second-round pick in 2014, started 14 games in each of the past two seasons and combined for 10.5 sacks in those 28 contests. He also impressed Pro Football Focus last season, receiving its 19th-best grade among 127 qualified interior defensive linemen.

More from the AFC:

  • With the Dolphins having exercised his fifth-year option for 2018, right tackle Ja’Wuan James said Wednesday that “it’s good to know that I’m secure in the aspect of being here.” However, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald points out, the $9.431MM option is only guaranteed for injury, meaning James isn’t a lock to be on the team in 2018. James is actually at risk of ending up on the chopping block next offseason if he doesn’t rebound from what the team believes was a “frustratingly unspectacular” 2016, according to Salguero. James has started all 39 of his appearances since going 19th overall in 2014, and is coming off a 16-game season in which he graded as PFF‘s 32nd-best bookend. But the Dolphins are going to want more out of him if he’s going to stick around in 2018 at a high cost, per Salguero.
  • The Ravens will have to revise wide receiver Eric Decker‘s contract if their trade talks with the Jets lead to a deal, notes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Decker has two years and nearly $15MM left on his contract, including an $8.75MM cap hit for 2017. The Ravens only have $5MM-plus in spending room at the moment.
  • Thanks to the injury waiver he previously signed, tight end Dennis Pitta will receive no additional compensation following his release from the Ravens, Mike Florio of PFT writes. Typically, when a player gets injured during offseason practices, he gets paid until healthy or receives his entire salary if he’s out for the year. However, Pitta’s waiver cleared the Ravens of financial responsibility in the event of another hip injury. The tight end has dislocated his hip multiple times in recent years.
  • Bills running back Jonathan Williams was arrested in Arkansas last July on a DUI charge, but the 23-year-old was found not guilty on Thursday, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Assuming Williams dodges a suspension from the league, he’ll be in line to open the season as the Bills’ backup to LeSean McCoy. Mike Gillislee thrived in that role last season, but Buffalo lost him to the AFC East rival Patriots as a restricted free agent.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Dolphins Pick Up Ja’Wuan James’ Option

The Dolphins will pick up Ja’Wuan James‘ fifth-year option, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Now, the right tackle will be under team control through the 2018 season. Ja’Wuan James (vertical)

[RELATED: 2018 Fifth-Year Option Decision Tracker]

Over the weekend, Dolphins executive vice president and GM Chris Grier said that the team was still deliberating on what to do with James. Now, however, they’ll guarantee James’ 2018 salary for an estimated $9.341MM. The Dolphins project to start Laremy Tunsil and James at the tackle spots with Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey, and Kraig Urbik in between in 2017. If all goes well, we’ll see Tunsil/James for the next two seasons in Miami, at minimum.

Last year, James graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle in the NFL. While his pass blocking score left something to be desired, his run blocking score put him in the top 20 league-wide. Per PFF, 2016 was James’ best season to date.

As shown in PFR’s 2018 Fifth-Year Option Decision Tracker, teams have already decided on the majority of players in the 2014 first round. Clubs have until Wednesday to formally decide.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bolts, Raiders, Dolphins, Joeckel

After a second straight Chargers season faces the prospects of being overrun by injuries, the team is planning to expand its offseason studies in this area. The organization appears set to devote more resources to researching injuries come 2017, given what’s happened over the past month.

I can assure you this year is going to be more in-depth and thorough than ever before,” Chargers president John Spanos said, via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This year’s Chargers have lost numerous key players, from the preseason injury to Stevie Johnson to the early-season carnage that’s taken out Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Jahleel Addae, Manti Te’o and now Jason Verrett. Antonio Gates and Joey Bosa have also missed extensive time due to injuries. This comes after 2015’s spate of maladies that helped put the Bolts in the top five of a draft for the first time since 2004.

Gehlken points out the early portion of this decade did not bring the trouble the past two years have, with ACL and Achilles tears sparse before the ’15 season. Several within the organization said they’ve never seen anything like what’s happened to the Chargers on the health front the past two years, per Gehlken.

Here’s more from the AFC as most of its franchises prepare for their fifth games.

  • Al Davis‘ death staggered the Raiders and left them without a true GM for most of the 2011 season, but it ended up triggering the franchise’s steady climb back to respectability, Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune writes. In addition to Reggie McKenzie drafting better than his predecessor, at least in the several years before his death, the Raiders hired a coach in Jack Del Rio who demanded facility upgrades, Acee writes.
  • The Dolphins aren’t sold on Ja’Wuan James‘ long-term potential at right tackle, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. A Dolphins source questioned the third-year player’s drive, noting the team hasn’t done enough to provide competition for him at that spot. Billy Turner replaced James against the Browns before James reacquired the job due to a Turner injury. “That was a wasted pick for a first-rounder,” former front-office executive Ken Herock told Jackson. “He should have been a third- or fourth-rounder. I questioned his strength, his recovery ability. Those are things I didn’t see.” Pro Football Focus rates James as the No. 44 tackle thus far in 2016 among the 75 who qualify as full-timers.
  • Jackson also notes Chiefs center Mitch Morse and Chargers inside linebacker Denzel Perryman drew support from members of the Dolphins front office during Day 2 of the 2015 draft, but Mike Tannenbaum opted to trade down and snag defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who has not produced to this point, in the second round.
  • Luke Joeckel‘s surgery could make a return to the Jaguars more likely in 2017, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes. Although the former No. 2 overall pick has not panned out, a strong season at guard would have created a robust market for Joeckel instead of one that could well be tepid due to a small work sample at his second position. Joeckel proved ill-equipped at left tackle, prompting the Jags to bring in Kelvin Beachum, and played just 155 snaps at left guard before undergoing surgery to repair his ACL, MCL and mensicus. O’Halloran notes the team liked what they saw from Joeckel inside. He stands to be a UFA if not re-signed after the Jags declined his fifth-year option.
  • The Broncos are planning to give Paxton Lynch his first NFL start Sunday after deeming Trevor Siemian unfit to return.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Patriots, James, Jackson

The JetsPatriots rivalry may have hit a new high (or perhaps, low) as Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that NFL officials swept New York’s locker room and questioned three New England employees during Sunday’s game — all at the behest of the Jets. A source tells Howe that the Jets were concerned that Gillette Stadium’s operations and radio frequencies were not up to par (for the record, the Jets have denied making any such requests).

Nevertheless, per Howe, the three Pats employees were interrogated throughout the third quarter, forced to hand over their phones and radios, and required to submit to a photograph. According to Howe, the Patriots were informed that none of the checks revealed anything improper, and that the club had done nothing wrong.

Let’s take a look at more out the AFC East, including fallout from last night’s contest…

  • The Dolphins‘ offensive line took a hit on Thursday night when Ja’Wuan James left the game with a toe injury, and it appears the team will have to get by without its starting right tackle for a few games. Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post (Twitter link) hears from a source that James is expected to miss four to six weeks.
  • During Thursday night’s game, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) noted that the Patriots are coming “dangerously close” to running out of offensive lineman, and wondered if that could be a position they target before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
  • One Patriots offensive lineman who did go down in last night’s game — guard Tre’ Jackson — should be able to return at some point in the near future, as a source tells Howe in a separate piece that the MRI on Jackson’s left knee came back negative. He’s considered day-to-day, and though he does have 10 days to get healthy, Jackson’s history of knee issues is a concern, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com details.
  • The Patriots, always on the lookout for useful tight ends, brought in veteran free agents Steve Maneri and Bear Pascoe for workouts this week, tweets Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Per Reiss, the team is keeping its emergency lists fresh, so it doesn’t sound like either tight end will be signed by New England anytime soon.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Flowers, Fitzpatrick, Ravens, ‘Fins

Free agent cornerback Brandon Flowers, released by the Chiefs on June 13, is expected to sign with a new team by the middle of the week, reports Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). We heard similar news a few days ago, so it appears that Flowers, whom La Canfora notes has “plenty of suitors,” has at least narrowed down his possible destinations. Our own Luke Adams mentioned the Lions as a landing spot for Flowers, given that Detroit has not downplayed its interest in the 2013 Pro Bowler. I would posit that the Chargers, who are in desperate need of secondary help, and the Ravens, who have a history of signing high-level players who have been cut, could also be options for the 28-year-old Flowers.

More from around the AFC:

  • Yesterday, we passed along several tweets from the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith regarding Ryan Fitzpatrick, with some analysts opining that the quarterback is “too much of a gunslinger with not enough of an arm.” In a new article, Smith fleshes out more opinions on Fitzpatrick, and wonders if he is capable of leading the Texans in the right direction. For his part, head coach Bill O’Brien has expressed confidence in his starter. “Ryan has come in here and learned well,” said O’Brien. “He’s a good guy. He’s a fun guy to coach. He works extremely hard. He’s thrown the ball accurately in these practices that we’ve had. He’s picked up the system well.”
  • Jacoby Jones and Gary Kubiak worked together with the Texans, and now that two are reunited on the Ravens, Jones is excited about the prospects of working in a Kubiak-run offense again, writes Ray Frager of CSNBaltimore.com. “Don’t sleep on [the deep pass], but the way he is, he’s going to take what you give us,” said Jones. “If you’re going to sit there and play that all game — you’re going to give it to us — why not? Just chip away and throw it down the field. It’s football. It’s a chess match.”
  • Some executives thought Dolphins first-rounder Ju’Waun James, who signed his rookie contract on Thursday, was a reach at pick No. 19, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We had James as a late-first rounder,” said an NFC scout. “He has first-round talent but you want more of a finisher, more production for a player with his size and skill level. He’s a quiet country kid. I’m not sure he wants to lead a unit.”
  • Within the same piece, Jackson spoke with an NFC executive who said that veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan could rebound with the Dolphins this season, and pointed to the failures of ex-Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton as the reason for Finnegan’s 2013 struggles. Finnegan overwhelmingly agreed with that assessment, saying Walton’s scheme was “atrocious. From the game plan to technique to fundamentals, they weren’t in line with a defensive coordinator who knew what he was doing. He was a great defensive backs coach, but when you’re in over your head, it’s kind of tough.”

Extra Points: Cowboys, Burfict, Savage

In this week’s chat, a reader asked Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News which Dallas professional sports coach will be the first to get fired. While Rangers skipper Ron Washington is in some trouble, Cowlishaw believes there’s even more pressure on Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to succeed. Another 8-8 season wouldn’t bode well for Garrett’s future but at the same time, Jerry Jones is very fond of him. More from around the NFL..

  • Reps for Vontaze Burfict met with the Bengals this week and sides are making progress on a new deal, sources tell Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (via Twitter). As it stands, the linebacker is set to earn $570K in 2014 before reaching restricted free agency.
  • Tom Savage‘s deal with the Texans is a four-year pact worth $2.52MM, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). As previously reported, Savage’s signing bonus is just over $300K. The fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh picked up interest from a number of teams in April including the Patriots, but ultimately Houston snagged him. Now, Savage will vie with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and T.J. Yates for playing time under center.
  • Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter links) runs down the rookies who will be attending camp with the Eagles: linebacker Blaze Caponegro, tight end Jamie Childers, linebacker Ryan Donohue, linebacker Anthony Larry, center Mackey MacPherson, defensive back Davon Morgan, and tackle Baker Steinkuhler.
  • Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio (on Twitter) that Billy Turner, a third-round tackle out of North Dakota State, will play guard. Hickey went on to say (link) that first-round Ju’Wuan James was a highly-targeted player for the Dolphins, which was a bit of an open secret heading into the draft. Miami is expecting the athletic, strong tackle to “play right away.”

AFC East Notes: Watkins, Jets, Easley

Sammy Watkins is considered by some the best prospect in the draft, drawing grades comparable to elite receiver prospects Julio Jones and A.J. Green. Just as the Falcons did to acquire Jones, the Bills paid a significant price to jump up and snag Watkins. Mike Rodak at ESPN.com compared the two trades: “Essentially, the Falcons moved up 16 more spots in the first round than the Bills did, with the difference in the trades being Atlanta’s current-year second- and fourth-round selections included in the deal.”

There’s never a shortage of news of notes coming from the AFC East. Here’s some more:

  • Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if Calvin Pryor‘s hard-hitting style will fly in today’s NFL. The Jets‘ first round pick has said that approaches his game like NFL safeties Kam Chancellor and Dashon Goldson, two big hitters that have a tendency to pick up flags and fines.
  • Jets General Manager John Idzik refused to say whether quarterback Johnny Manziel was in the cards, writes Cimini. Idzik acknowledged that they “fielded plenty of calls” from teams picking below them, presumably teams interested in trading up for Manziel. One of them may have been the Browns (26th), who wound up trading places with the Eagles (22nd) to take the former Texas A&M star. “We won’t get into who was in consideration,” Idzik said. “Suffice it to say, we stuck to our philosophy and we stuck to our board.”
  • The Dolphins reached for first-round pick Ja’Wuan James at No. 19, tweets Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, but only after trying to trade down. They didn’t find a partner willing to meet their asking price. Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel elaborated on the topic, saying the Dolphins could have traded down and had their pick of right tackle prospects, but “They were that much in love with James.”
  • Assuming Patriots first-rounder Dominique Easley is healthy after recovering from his second ACL tear, he brings explosiveness and versatility to the defensive line, in the opinion of ESPNBoston’s Field Yates, who compares Easley to Lamarr Houston.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe added some insight into the Easley selection as well as his personality. Among the tidbits: Bill Belichick valued Easley’s performance against good competition… and he’d rather watch SpongeBob than football.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Dolphins Exploring First-Round Trades

As draft night nears, the Dolphins are very much open for business, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, who reports that the team has fielded and initiated multiple calls to other clubs, exploring potential trades up or down in the first round.

Salguero notes that the team’s apparent willingness to trade up from No. 19 is somewhat surprising, and he doesn’t have any specific details on possible moves up for Miami. In my view, it may be worth sliding up a few spots if an offensive tackle like Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan slips into the mid-teens. However, a trade down looks like the more likely scenario, particularly since the Dolphins only hold seven picks in this year’s draft, which doesn’t give them a whole lot of ammo to move up.

According to Salguero, the Dolphins have had “preliminary discussions” with the Eagles (No. 22), Browns (No. 26), and Saints (No. 27). The club has also spoken to the Niners, who hold the 30th pick, but may not want to drop behind the Panthers (No. 28), since Carolina also figures to be targeting an offensive tackle with its first pick.

As for specific targets, Salguero identifies Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier as a couple players the Dolphins “love,” and adds that prospects like LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr., USC receiver Marqise Lee, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses are also on Miami’s radar.