The Denver Broncos broke open the vault to spend big on offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James. Was this the right move to make Denver a contender?
The Denver Broncos have gone through wholesale changes this season. They’ve traded for a new quarterback in Joe Flacco, paid major money for a new cornerback in Kareem Jackson, and now added an extra zero to the checkbook for offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James. The tackle spent the first five seasons of his career with the Miami Dolphins.
The tackle position was not the greatest in free agency, with Trent Brown signing a four-year, $66 million deal. This showed that teams had to pay major money for anyone who was starter worthy, and that’s exactly what the Broncos did.
The Broncos gave James a four-year, $52 million deal as per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This contract includes $32 million in guarantees. It feels like a ton of money for the player James is, but like we saw with Trent Brown, teams were forced to overpay to get tackles who could start in NFL games.
The deal is for an offensive lineman, so the reaction was interesting to say the least. Being that this deal went down close to 11 o’clock at night on a very busy day for NFL reporters, many are asleep at this point. However, there was plenty of reaction to the deal.
Nick Mensio doesn’t hold back just minutes after the deal is announced, calling it one of the worst of the entire day. He wasn’t alone in his assessment, as fans and writers alike believe John Elway broke open the checkbook for the wrong guy. And as The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala profiles, the Broncos have tried multiple times in vain to upgrade the tackle position.
Some fans actually on board with the signing, and with NFL reporters saying the Broncos tried to trade for James last offseason, some may think of this as a win that they got their man one year later without giving up anything besides salary cap space.
This just feels like another mistake by John Elway. This is a ton of money for an average right tackle. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in history. It just isn’t worth it.
He’s a former first-round pick, so he clearly has a lot of talent. His PFF grade last season was 70.8. He’s fine. James is an average tackle that could be below average in certain situations. The Broncos needed something better after the revolving door they’ve had at the position. With Flacco coming in to learn a new offense for the first time in a long time, he needs extra time to scan the field and gain chemistry. This wasn’t the move that was going to make that happen.