Denver Broncos: Free agent offensive tackles to replace Ja’Wuan James

Denver Broncos, Charles Leno Jr.. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos, Charles Leno Jr.. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /
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Denver Broncos, Ja'Wuan James
Ja’Wuan James, Denver Broncos (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos and former big-money free agent Ja’Wuan James are likely headed for a parting of ways after James’ latest major injury. A former first-round pick of the Dolphins, James signed a four-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth $51 million in total money, $27 million guaranteed at signing.

Although the Denver Broncos cannot recoup the $17.6 million that has been paid to James already, they will likely get back nearly $11 million in cash that was supposed to be paid out for the 2021 season as James — who had spent all offseason training at the Broncos’ facility prior to the NFLPA’s instructions to stay away — suffered an Achilles injury working out on his own away from the team facility.

James’ injury is going to likely bring a lot of conflict forward from the NFL players and the NFLPA, whose decision to sign the last CBA seems worse by the day in hindsight.

The decisions made by James since signing with the Denver Broncos have reflected very poorly on him, though you can never really fault players for doing what’s best for themselves.

Since he signed the dotted line in Denver, James played merely 63 offensive snaps in regular season play. After getting run into by former Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the 2019 season-opener, James spent time on the injured list before getting cleared by Denver Broncos team doctors.

Despite being cleared medically, James chose not to play because of the discomfort or hesitance he had with his knee. Vic Fangio’s comments, at the time, did not seem to signify much empathy towards James.

Then, in the 2020 offseason, James was one of a fairly large number of NFL players to opt-out of the season. NFL facilities frankly became some of the safest places to be in the entire country last year with constant testing for the virus, cleaning protocols, social distance protocols, mask protocols, etc. James’ decision to opt-out was for multiple reasons, at least from what we know from the outside looking in.

James welcomed a child into the world last year but he also noted on Twitter that part of his motivation for sitting out the 2020 season had nothing to do with COVID itself and more to do with a higher risk of being injured.

After the 2020 season concluded, Broncos players and coaches were asked about James returning for 2021. Up to this point, the expectation has been that James would return as the starting right tackle because his contract tolled an entire year when he opted out of the 2020 season. Financially, the Denver Broncos were tied to him.

Despite that, left tackle Garett Bolles had some interesting comments about James needing to essentially regain the trust of his teammates upon returning to the fold.

"“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. 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.” Garett Bolles (January via Broncos PR)"

Needless to say, James’ injury is something absolutely no one wanted to happen. With that being said, his decision to leave the team facility to work out privately was clearly not in his best interests, and the Denver Broncos will now have the opportunity to move on from his contract, recoup a significant chunk of cash, and perhaps upgrade at that right tackle spot.

What free agents are available to them? Let’s take a look.