Ja'Wuan James files $15 million grievance against Denver Broncos, reaches two-year deal with Baltimore Ravens, sources say
Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, who filed a $15 million grievance against his former team, the Denver Broncos, has also agreed to a contract with a new team, the Baltimore Ravens, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
James, 29, sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in a workout away from the facility last month. James had been guaranteed $10 million for the 2021 season, but because the injury took place off-site, it was designated as a non-football injury, meaning the Broncos were not obligated to pay his salary. The team later released him.
In his grievance, James is seeking his $10 million salary for the 2021 season and $5 million salary for the 2022 season, arguing that he was working out away from the facility under guidance from the Broncos, a source confirmed to ESPN. The NFL Players Association is not involved with James' grievance, which was filed on his own with attorney Mark Geragos, a source confirmed to ESPN.
James is set to sign a two-year deal worth up to $9 million with the Ravens, the sources told Schefter. He still has to pass a physical, but the exam will not include his current injury and no issues are expected, the sources said. The contract includes $500,000 in guaranteed money this year while he rehabs from his Achilles injury, with his sights set on a return for 2022. The Ravens will have him under contract at north of $8 million next season.
Denver coaches have routinely given players working out away from the facility specific workout protocols to follow during the offseason, if the players wish it. James, who opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, had also been in the team's facility at times this offseason.
"That's the business of football and not football business,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Monday when asked for comment on the grievance, adding that he would not comment further.
James' injury has been a flashpoint between the NFL and the NFLPA over the non-football injury designation.
The day after James was injured last month, he was specifically named in a memo from the NFL's management council to team executives and head coaches. In that memo it was outlined under the "Non-Football Injuries" designation that teams would have "no contractual obligation'' to pay players like James who were injured away from the team facilities.
The NFLPA responded two days later in an email to players that said: "It was gutless to use a player's serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.''
James played 63 snaps over three games combined -- all in 2019 -- after signing a four-year, $51 million deal with the Broncos in March of that year. He suffered a torn meniscus as well as a torn MCL in separate games that season.
The addition of James is an intriguing investment at right tackle for the Ravens. After trading two-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs in April, Baltimore signed former Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year, $14 million deal and moved him to the right side to immediately fill that void.
Next season, the Ravens can go with James on the right side if he is fully healthy and if Villanueva struggles to make the transition to right tackle. But given that James has played only three games since 2019, Baltimore has the option to keep Villanueva, who is scheduled to make $4 million in 2022, as insurance.
The news of James' grievance was first reported by ProFootballTalk.com.
ESPN's Jeff Legwold, Jamison Hensley and Dan Graziano contributed to this report.