ENGLEWOOD – A person with knowledge of the injury tells The Associated Press that right tackle Ja’Wuan James sustained a torn Achilles tendon while working out away from the Denver Broncos’ facilities Tuesday.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said James’ $10 million salary for 2021 is in jeopardy because the injury occurred off-site.
ESPN first reported James’ injury, which is expected to sideline him for the entire 2021 season.
He is among dozens of Broncos and hundreds of NFL players leaguewide who are boycotting voluntary offseason work at team facilities this spring. Players have cited concerns over COVID-19 safety protocols, but also are pushing for a reduced offseason schedule after last year’s virtual offseason led to fewer injuries.
Had James gotten hurt at the team’s facilities, his salary would have been covered.
James’ injury is sure to be a top talking point as the NFL encourages players to return to team facilities later this month when the offseason program ramps up beyond weight room sessions that are allowed now.
Phase 2 beginning May 17 will remain voluntary with virtual meetings but on-field drills will be permitted in advance of a mandatory minicamp.
James has only played 63 snaps since signing a four-year, $51 million free agent contract with the Broncos in 2019, which at the time was the highest ever for a right tackle.
James missed most of his first season in Denver with a balky knee and opted out in 2020 over coronavirus concerns.
The Broncos bypassed available tackles in last weekend’s draft, in part because of James’ expected return to the lineup.
“We targeted a few that were taken right before we took them, but it didn’t fall our way,” general manager George Paton said Saturday when asked about not adding a tackle in the draft. “We still feel good about our depth. We’ll continue to look on the market — the free-agent market. I think we’re signing five offensive linemen from college free agency.”
The Broncos have had more trouble filling their right tackle spot than they have finding a suitable successor to quarterback Peyton Manning, who retired in 2016.
The Broncos have had a different starting right tackle for their opener in each of the past eight seasons. Last year’s fill-in was Elijah Wilkinson, who signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason.
Calvin Anderson, who played in every game last season and started twice, is an option to start at right tackle for Denver in 2021. Available free agents include Demar Dotson, who played for the Broncos last season, and former Chiefs All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz, who is coming off back surgery.