- Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending injury while working out.
- Because James wasn’t training at his team’s facility, the injury could lead his salary to be voided.
- Broncos players have been boycotting on-site offseason workouts due to COVID-19 concerns.
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Denver Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered an Achilles injury on Tuesday that will force him to miss the entire 2021 NFL season. It could cost him the whole year’s salary, too.
James was set to make a $10 million base salary this year, and his contract has a built-in injury guarantee. But that guarantee only applies if he gets injured under team supervision. James was injured while working out away from the team facility, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
-Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 4, 2021
This gives the Broncos the option to void his salary for this year, based on the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
James, like all of his teammates, has been working out off-site because the players were concerned about COVID-19 risk. The Broncos, in fact, were the first team in the NFL to announce they would boycott voluntary offseason workouts. After that move last month, players from 21 other teams also announced their intentions to boycott in-person offseason workouts.
Through the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA), the athletes lobbied to return to the same virtual workout format they used last season. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter encouraged every NFL player not to attend voluntary workouts in a letter.
-NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 13, 2021
But if the Broncos void James’ contract, his injury would throw a wrench into the NFLPA stance and deter other players from working out off-site.
The situation even drew the attention of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“So they are going to take his contract for working out in the off-season???” Mahomes wrote on Twitter.
The Chiefs are a division rival to the Broncos, and they’re one of the 11 teams not boycotting in-person offseason workouts. Still, the implications of James’ situation could apply to most players in the NFL, since many of them are wary about working at team facilities due to the pandemic.
“You’re expected to work out when away from the facility. He wasn’t ‘going against’ his contract lol,” Conley wrote.
However, James’ record before his injury doesn’t give Denver much incentive to pay his salary. James signed a four-year, $51 million contract with the Broncos in 2019, which made him the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL at the time. But he’s only played in three games since signing that deal. James suffered a knee injury in his first season in Denver that caused him to miss 13 games. Then he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
That meant that for last season, he received a $150,000 stipend rather than his scheduled $10 million salary. If the Broncos void his salary due to injury this year, James would be losing nearly $20 million in total from the contract he signed in 2019.