With 9News’ Mike Klis first reporting the news, Broncos starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James is expected to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19.
JaWuan James has opted out per source. Broncos lose RT for year. #9sports
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 3, 2020
By opting-out, James will forego his 2020 salary and will instead receive a stipend of $150 thousand that will be deducted from his 2021 salary, unless he is granted the $350 thousand pay-out that isn’t deducted from next year’s salary, which is reserved for the players at a higher risk to the virus. The decision frees up an extra $13 million in cap space for the Broncos this season, some of which will likely be used to help replace James.
James took to Twitter to explain his decision:
take care of you & yours pic.twitter.com/tgA5LwkrcM
— Ja'Wuan James (@JawuanJames70) August 3, 2020
It’s hard to judge James’ decision negatively, as every player deserves the right to put the health of themselves and their family first, but it will undeniably serve a crushing blow to a Denver offensive line that was expected to take a leap forward in 2020, in large part due to James’ expected return from injury.
Now the Broncos will have to turn to Elijah Wilkinson to replace James, who is currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and was expected to challenge Garett Bolles for the starting left tackle job.
Considering behind Wilkinson, Denver only has Calvin Anderson, Quinn Bailey, Jake Rodgers and Hunter Watts, they will also probably look to add some depth via the open market, but pickings are slim at this stage in free agency.
The top available options appear to be Cordy Glenn and Demar Dotson, both of whom are on the wrong side of 30 and are coming off poor seasons with the Bengals and Buccaneers respectively. If the Broncos wanted to target a younger option, they could look to either Jordan Mills or LaAdrian Waddle, who also find themselves without a team currently.