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Denver Broncos Settle Ja'Wuan James' Grievance Lawsuit

The Denver Broncos can now put the Ja'Wuan James saga in the rear-view.
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The Denver Broncos signed right tackle Ja’Wuan James back in 2019 with the expectation that he would be the long-term starter at the position.

When he tore his Achilles tendon while working away from team facilities in the spring of 2021, James was released (after playing a grand total of 63 snaps as a Bronco). He then filed a grievance over the Broncos' decision to void his remaining guaranteed money.

This week, the Broncos settled James' grievance. Per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, the Broncos agreed to pay a $1.09 million settlement to James.

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A first-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2014, James played five seasons with that team, but missed nine games in 2015 and eight in 2016. Although he proved to be a good player, his injury history was among the reasons the Dolphins opted not to re-sign him.

The Broncos, who were trying to find stability at the right tackle position, made James one of the highest-paid right tackles at the time, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $51M contract with $27M fully guaranteed upon signing. He was one of Denver's most significant free-agent signings of the 2019 offseason.

James started just three games in 2019, missing time with an injury that was never fully explained. The Broncos paid him about $17M in his first season and got barely anything in return.

In 2020, James opted out of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because James was not considered a player at high risk for contracting COVID, he received a $750,000 advance, but that came out of his $10M base salary, which rolled over to 2021.

The Broncos, thus, weren’t out a lot of money but did have to scramble to find a replacement at right tackle. The team ultimately signed Demar Dotson, who backed up Elijah Wilkinson, but Dotson ended up starting eight games after Wilkinson was lost to injury.

James was expected to be the starter in 2021, but his Achilles injury prevented that. Because he chose to work out away from team facilities, the Broncos cut James and voided his guaranteed money, including the $10M due in 2021 and an additional $5M due in 2022 that was protected in case James was injured.

That led to James filing the grievance, which has now been settled. James has since signed with the Baltimore Ravens and is now listed as the backup to left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

James will go down as the worst free-agent signing of John Elway’s tenure as general manager. That the Broncos may not have had to pay much more than the $17M James got in his first season, isn’t much consolation to fans who grew frustrated with the tackle’s absences and the lack of stability at the position.

Now that the issue is settled, the Broncos can move forward. And while right tackle remains a concern, the Broncos aren’t committing nearly as much money to the position as they did with James.

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