The Denver Broncos’ worst fears were realized Tuesday when he started right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending Achilles tear while working out of the team facility. The high-dollar veteran, who signed a $ 51 million four-year deal in the spring of 2019, faces the clear possibility of losing his significant $ 10 million. Salary in 2021 because the injury happened away from the team facility.
One of the disadvantages of the NFLPA is that it encourages players to boycott Phase 1 of the offseason training program. However, the Broncos could choose to deal with James in the same way the team managed Ryan Clady injury back in 201
Given that James has played exactly 63 snaps for the Broncos since signing what was then a record handling deal for a real tackle, the team is not expected to be too accommodating. That’s the bad news for James.
The good news for the Broncos is that despite the crisis of losing Sharpied-in start-right tackles, that $ 10 million. Then could be used to lure or sign a formidable veteran player to stop the gap. Maybe Broncos’ O-line coach Mike Munchak feels bullish on the untested backup Calvin Anderson, but let’s face it; GM George Paton would be willing not to sign a veteran-free agent.
It does not help that Denver missed out on a tackle last week. But there are a few good veteran opportunities out there waiting to be inhabited. Here are the top 5.
Mitchell Schwartz | ex-Kansas City Chiefs
Also known as ‘Von Miller Kryptonite’, Schwartz was rudely released by Chiefs earlier this year. The four-time All-Pro is used to making good money, so Paton will have to be willing to open the checkbook to land Schwartz, making it all the more advantageous not to pay James the money that the Broncos are no longer obliged to pay him.
Schwartz is still only 31, so landing him would give Denver a set and forget-me-not opportunity at the right tackle in the foreseeable future, depending on the length of the contract.
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Charles Leno | ex-Chicago Bears
The Bears released Leno on Monday, making him an attractive option for the Broncos. The 29-year-old received Pro Bowl honors in 2018 and is very reliable after starting all 16 games the last five seasons. If Schwartz is reticent or too expensive, Leno would make a lot of sense.
Ricky Wagner | ex Green Bay Packers
After signing a two-year deal last spring, Packers quickly cut bait with Wagner after appearing in only 9-of-16 games in 2020. At the age of 31, Wagner could be saved by Munchak’s coaching brilliance and it could take the level of attention to get him back to the once coveted form he was in when he left Baltimore as a free agent in 2017.
Dennis Kelly | ex-Tennessee Titans
An earlier Philadelphia fifth-round pick from Purdue, Kelly was traded to the Titans in 2016, where he continued to earn a multi-year contract extension. He started all 16 games in Tennessee last year by right tackle and is also 31 years old.
Demar Dotson | ex-Denver Broncos
Whether or not Denver pays big bucks to one of the two top-named guys, it would be necessary for the team to sign Dotson if the soon-to-be 36-year-old still plans to continue his pro career. The Broncos signed him at the door last season after James’ disqualification, and when he was invited to play (as a backup to Elijah Wilkinson), he performed at a high level – as a pass blocker.
Dotson started eight games in Denver last year after Wilkinson was injured and he did not give up a single sack as the right tackle. He was eventually overwhelmed when Wilkinson healed (for inexplicable reasons that we still do not fully understand) and did not see meaningful playing time again. Dotson knows the system, knows buses and has proven to be reliable in his 11 NFL seasons.
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