How will Broncos handle the Ja’Wuan James injury?

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The Denver Broncos suddenly find themselves in a delicate spot regarding the tug of war between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over offseason workouts.

With right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffering a potentially season-ending Achilles tendon tear during an off-site workout, the Broncos have the contractual right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to not pay James his eight-figure salary in 2021. But the Broncos aren’t required to stiff James.

The league office, which seized on the incident in an effort to persuade all players to return for voluntary offseason workouts, will surely want the Broncos to extend James no courtesies for following the union’s recommendation to stay away. The union will try to get players to pressure the Broncos to take care of James.

The Broncos ultimately will have to make the best decision for their organization. The major questions are this: (1) will they pay all or part of his $9.85 million fully-guaranteed salary for 2021?; (2) will they seek recovery of his $3 million signing bonus applicable to 2021?; (3) will they seek reimbursement of his opt-out salary advance from 2020?; (4) will the team pay for his surgery and rehab?; and (5) will the team void all current and future guarantees and cut him?

It doesn’t help James that he appeared in only three games in 2019, the first season of his four-year, $51 million contract. James received a $12 million signing bonus and a $5 million salary — a total payout of $17 million — during that first season with the Broncos. It would be easy for the Broncos to justify cutting James off, given how little they’ve gotten from him. Indeed, given his current contractual situation (and in light of the fact that he opted out in 2020), James had even more reason to show up for offseason workouts at the team facility.

The fact that the NFLPA has tried to wedge the square peg of the James injury into the round hole of a workplace injury won’t necessarily help James’ cause. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the workout program that James contends he was following wasn’t recommended; it was presented as “voluntary options” to players. More importantly, the letter attaching the voluntary options for off-site workouts cautioned players in red print and with underlining that the team is not responsible for any injuries that occur away from the team facility.

It’s possible that, if/when the Broncos place James on the non-football injury list, team and player will strike a deal. The Broncos have the leverage, and they arguably can dictate the terms. Whatever James may eventually get through a negotiated settlement, it will be far less than the 100 cents on the dollar he would have received if the injury had happened at the team’s facility.

37 responses to “How will Broncos handle the Ja’Wuan James injury?

  1. They should just cut him, the guy has only played 60 snaps for them in three years (if you count 2021).

    NFL is a business, not a matter of “feeling bad” for players.

  2. Worst free agent signing in team history if I had to guess as a non Broncos fan. He deserves nothing and will get nothing. Because what he’s given them over 3 years, is nothing.

  3. I’m still not certain why the players even listen to the NFLPA.

    For years, players wanted to stop the franchise tag, get fully guaranteed salaries, eliminate marijuana testing and not do a 17 game season.

    Why should they listen to the NFLPA about staying away from voluntary workouts when the risk is very high working out on your own?

  4. Did the player in question secure insurance to protect him against losses for areas that would be uncovered by his contract? Seems to me that if a player fails to do due diligence to protect his working years, he is to blame, not the team. A contract has specific points – a player who fails to handle the points that would make him lose salary is a fool and deserves to bear the entire burden for that stupidity.

  5. The Broncos should make James the poster boy of what happens when you screw around.

  6. Sorry, but you get nothing. Giving in, you might as well re-write the CBA. Plus, he’s earned more than enough money for doing essentially nothing.

  7. In the words of the great Judge Elihu Smails, James shall “get nothing and like it”.

  8. I wouldn’t pay James a dime. This guy hasn’t played at all really since signing a huge contract with the Broncos. The guy had the nerve to opt out of 2020 after playing only 3 games the previous season. I’m not a Broncos fan but paying this guy anymore money for literally nothing would be beyond stupid. If anything the Broncos should be trying recoup monies paid to James. I remember when he hit FA I wanted AZ to sign him in FA as they needed a RT at the time, man am I glad they didn’t. Dodged a 15+ million dollar built there.

  9. joelmiller23 says:
    May 7, 2021 at 1:20 pm
    Worst free agent signing in team history if I had to guess as a non Broncos fan. He deserves nothing and will get nothing. Because what he’s given them over 3 years, is nothing.

    I just can’t believe this guy expects to be paid anything this year after not giving Denver ANYTHING in over 2+YRs given he again won’t play this year. I don’t know he looks Denver’s executives in the eyes when he talks to them, this guy is flat out stealing from Denver at this point. Somebody should tell him Denver isn’t in the business of giving out free money, it’s not a Welfare office. This guy has made more for doing less than even Sam Bradford did or at the very least he’s on that level, that’s hard to do.

  10. Jeez NFLPA, feel entitled much? Something for nothing is a crappy business model.

  11. “But the Broncos aren’t required to stiff James.” ? What? The players union are the ones who told the players to stay away. He followed their instructions. The union signed off on the contractual obligations if or when the player gets hurt. I would not pay him anything and I would get back the prorated signing bonus money. This is not about anybody “stiffing” anybody. This is just the NFLPA obviously giving the players really bad advice. What kind of message would this send the players and the owners if they paid him? Chew on that for awhile.

  12. I can see withholding the salary for a player who gets injured away from the facility doing something stupid or dangerous, like bungee jumping or racing ATVs, or even if they are off playing pickup basketball, but working out to keep in shape for the upcoming season seems like it oughtta be permitted. Aren’t all players expected to show up for training camp in shape? Also, popping an Achilles is one of those things that can happen stepping off a curb or mowing the lawn; not sure I agree that a team should be able to penalize a player on such a freak type of injury, wherever it happened.

  13. Drama drama drama. It’s in their contracts that they are required to work out at team facilities or they risk voiding their contracts. If the NFLPA feels that is so ridiculous then why did they agree to it in the first place? It’s recreational outrage, just something to complain about. This guy took the Broncos for a small fortune, refused to play when he was medically cleared by doctors and team physicians and continued to refuse to play even when Fangio publicly questioned why he wasn’t playing. Why should they have his back after all of that? The Raven’s payed Suggs but he’s a legend in that org. The Pat’s payed Bruschi but again, he was a legend there. James is no legend.

  14. I wonder why people don’t like to see football players get there money

  15. ever since James was in Denver the team has lived up to the letter of the contract, even when he was cleared to play and wouldn’t he was still payed. sat out last year
    and still got his money and with any luck Denver will adhere to the wording of the contract and pay this guy what he’s owed…nothing! He broke the terms of the contract and must live with it just as the team had too. Maybe there is just a little bit justice in this mans world.

  16. He deserves nothing. He ought to pay back the Broncos for cashing checks for doing zilch.

  17. Since he was acting on the advice of the NFLPA then why don’t doesn’t the NFLPA take care of his salary. Once again, NFLPA screws the players again.

  18. ‘Stiff’ means to cheat someone, usually out of money. Adhering to the contract is not cheating James. It is holding him accountable to the contract.

  19. @Kenneth Vidato,This people feels that a person should earn the money paid to them. maybe it’s just me

  20. Let him keep prorated bonus and if he is in meetings all year and rehabbing, pay him league minimum if allowed

  21. Ja’Wuan James should sue the NFLPA union.

  22. A small settlement would be preferable to arbitration and/or litigation. But if not the Broncos can go for every penny.

  23. Doubt if Broncos will pay him. Would set a precedent the other 31 teams would not like. Really just another case of a union claiming responsibilty for a “benefit” of questionable value.

  24. It’s not like James did anything to earn his contract. Even teammates have been quoted as saying he needed to earn the locker rooms trust after basically quitting. Cut him outright.

  25. This isn’t Marcus Lattimore, not paying for his surgery is not an option. That’s a nuclear measure and could cause a strike.

  26. This man ain’t getting much Love in this room and deservedly so. [cleared to play and won’t is all I needed to know].

  27. I’m guessing they give him a few mil as an injury settlement and say goodbye. Just a guess.

  28. this is an area where different players will be treated differently. remember when ben crashed his motorcycly?
    this guy has played what, 3 games in two years and his ceiling for this year is 3 if any? gotta pull the plug. if this happened to von Miller a few years back though, the teame looks the other way.

  29. No Problem. It was the union’s suggestion to not go to team facilities so the union should pay his salary.Of couse the players are all saying he should be paid. Duh no surprise!

  30. As a fan of the Broncos for over 30 yrs, I suspect they will let him keep what he has already gotten, and simply cut him. Denver is too classy to kick a man while he is down. EVEN THOUGH HE HAS DONE NOTHING, THEY WONT ASK FOR ANYTHING BACK.

  31. Well gotta say that the Broncos do risk a big blowback if they get too extreme about it that they won’t be a popular place for future free agents. If a player has another choice to play for why would he want to play for Denver, who might not pay you if you get hurt in your effort to be a better player for them? Furthermore, if there’s a chance Broncos management will not pay you if you get hurt working out in the off-season.. ..why bother to work out in the off-season at all, and risk losing your paycheck?

    I forget who this happened to, but a couple seasons ago, an NFL player got hurt playing basketball in the off-season. He ended up getting paid as per his contract said he would and this is sort of the same situation. It’s easy to just say “screw him,” but I think you’d still be a jerk to do it, and I think there might be consequences an NFL team management knows that y’all don’t.

  32. Working out has risks. If you have a guaranteed deal, then don’t work out away from the team facility. Those angling for a new deal should work out.

  33. Send a message Denver. The bus driver doesn’t own the bus company.

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