Ja'Wuan James is done for the 2021 season — and likely done with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos' starting right tackle suffered a torn Achilles' on Tuesday while working out away from the team facility, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported. Schefter added that James' $10 million salary for the upcoming campaign is now "in jeopardy."
The news was independently confirmed by 9News insider Mike Klis.
James, a former first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins, will go down as one of the worst free-agent signings of all time. He played just 63 snaps — earning $202,380 per snap — in 2019 after inking a four-year, $51 million deal that, at the time, made him the highest-paid RT in league history. A series of knee injuries torpedoed his Broncos inauguration, though James received criticism from fans who felt he could have played through the pain, but chose not to.
Another domino fell last August when James opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19. It was his right to defect, but the decision did little to dispel outward vitriol nor improve his in-house standing.
“I’ve talked to him now and then. He knows what he has to do to get back into the room, and he knows what he has to do to earn our trust back," Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles told reporters in January. "At the same time, we’re going to open our arms and love him and take care of him. He has a lot of work to do to get where he needs to be, and I know he’ll do that.”
Denver was contractually bound to James, faced with a salary cap-killing $19 million dead money charge if they opted to release him. He's currently scheduled to count $13 million against the cap this year. This development, however, could grant the franchise the contractual out it's seeking.
With James once again removed from the picture, the Broncos — who did not select an offensive tackle in last week's 2021 NFL Draft — are down to Calvin Anderson, Quinn Bailey, and undrafted rookie Drew Himmelman. The club also has left guard Dalton Risner as an "emergency" option, head coach Vic Fangio said Friday.
According to Klis, the Broncos will be "on [the] hunt" for a veteran insurance policy. It's possible they express interest in recently-cut Bears OT Charles Leno or re-sign Demar Dotson, who started eight games at RT last year.
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