Mike Klis' speculation that the Denver Broncos could be prepared to part ways with offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James begs the question: At what price does it come?
The price comes to the tune of $10 million owed to James if he's cut, plus little in the way of cap savings.
If done as a straight cut, the Broncos would lose $6M in cap space while carrying a $19M dead money charge. That would necessitate the Broncos having to make other moves to free cap space. Though the Broncos may very well move on from other players, doing it because they need to clear space after cutting James isn't good roster planning.
If done as a post-June 1 cut, the dead money charge is $13M with no cap space gained. In other words, it doesn't help when it comes to freeing space to sign draft picks.
There are two ways in which the Broncos could save some face, though. The first option is to trade him, which frees $4M in cap space with a $9M dead money charge. Whoever acquires him takes the $10M base salary James is due in 2021.
But while trading him can't be completely ruled out, it's not likely to happen. The Broncos might get a seventh-round pick, maybe a sixth-round pick by sending a seventh back and paying some of James' salary. However, the chances of a trade happening are low.
So what's the other way the Broncos can get out of the deal.? That lies with James himself — he could decide to retire.
When a player retires, he forfeits all future guarantees. For a team, the cap savings is like a trade, meaning the Broncos take a $9M dead money charge with $4M in space freed, plus they save $10M in cash.
There's no guarantee that James retires -- but keep in mind that the Broncos will want James to commit to the team if he's planning to return in 2021. If James really isn't interested in committing to the team, or his heart isn't into the game as some fans may believe, he really needs to ask himself if it's time to call it a career.
Thus, Broncos general manager George Paton and head coach Vic Fangio need to have conversations with James about whether or not he is prepared to commit to playing in 2021. If James decides he's not, Paton and Fangio should tell James he should seriously consider retirement.
Paton could then offer James one assurance if he retires: The Broncos won't insist he repay any of his $12M signing bonus, which is something that NFL teams may ask of a player who retires before his contract expires.
While the Broncos would have to take the $9M dead money charge if James retired (and not pursuing signing bonus repayment), the team would still have that $10M in cash to spend elsewhere, plus some cap savings.
Whatever approach the Broncos take, though, Paton needs to be careful. Cutting James isn't like ripping off a Band-Aid, but like pulling stitches, when it comes to the cap situation. The Broncos need to be sure they can manage the roster well if they simply cut James.
But if James isn't committed to the Broncos, he needs to ask himself if he should commit to football at all. A scenario in which he retires, with the Broncos agreeing not to seek anything else from James, might be in everyone's best interest and allow the team to move forward without that much cap pain.