The Broncos players have been doing their end of the season press conferences today and left tackle Garett Bolles had something interesting to say about right tackle Ja’Wuan James. He told reporters that “He(James) knows what he has to do to earn our trust back”.
Bolles on Ja'Wuan James next year: "He knows what he has to do to earn our trust back. At same time we're going to open up our arms and love him and take care of him. But at same time he has a lot of work to do to get to where he needs to be and I know he'll do that." #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) January 4, 2021
Ja’Wuan James signed a 4 year, $51,000,000 contract with the Denver Broncos during the 2019 offseason. That deal included a $12,000,000 signing bonus, $32,000,000 guaranteed. However, James has just played in three games for the Broncos since. His 2019 season was marred with injuries that sidelined him for most of the season. His toughness and willingness to play through the injury were questioned by the end of the season. Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio’s comments on the situation didn’t help things either. He told reporters that James was cleared to play, but that he needed to get “emotionally and mentally ready to play”.
“He’s cleared to play, but we have to get him ready to play. He’s got to get mentally ready to play, emotionally ready to play and be able to go out there and play good, not just go out there.”
The Broncos entered a 2020 offseason thinking they would get James back healthy and ready to hold down the right tackle position. A job the Broncos paid him top dollar to do. However, the Covid-19 outbreak occurred and James, like many other players, decided to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season.
I do not believe anyone is holding this against him as many other players did the same. They put the health and safety of their families first. As we saw, the Covid-19 did spread through the NFL and saw a few outbreaks within teams. So again, I don’t think this is why the team believes James has to earn their trust back.
So this is interesting, at least to me. What did James do to lose the trust of the Broncos locker room/offensive lineman teammates?
I can only speculate, but his mental and emotional readiness were questioned publicly last season by Vic Fangio so maybe there is more to the story than him simply opting out due to Covid? Bolles did say that they will welcome him back with open arms but that he has a lot of work to do as well, so this really does seem like more than him sitting out due to Covid.
James carries a $19 million in dead money cap hit next season so I do not see the team moving on from him so this storyline will be interesting to watch as we progress into the offseason.