May 4—Denver Broncos starting right tackle, Ja'Wuan James, suffered a possible season-ending torn Achilles during an off-site workout Tuesday, The Gazette confirmed. According to the NFL Network, the Broncos are "hopeful" he won't miss the season, but are unsure how much time he will be out.
James returned the Broncos this offseason after opting out last season due to COVID-19. General Manager George Paton said earlier this week that James has been at the facility almost every day this offseason working out — though, this injury took place away from the facility. With the injury happening off-site, the Broncos are not obligated to pay James' $10 million salary.
After signing a four-year, $51 million contract in 2019, James' career in Denver is likely over, after playing only 63 snaps for the Broncos.
"He's been here, and he's been working out," Paton said April 22. "He's looks great and the expectation is he starts at right tackle and he plays well."
But now the bigger question is who will start for the Broncos at right tackle, after it was a revolving door last year with Demar Dotson and Calvin Anderson. With Dotson being a free agent, Anderson is the assumed starter. Denver didn't take a tackle in the draft and hasn't signed any in free agency, either, in hopes of James being 100 percent.
"We targeted a few (tackles) that were taken right before we took them, but it didn't fall our way," Paton said Saturday. "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. Sometimes it just doesn't fall. We had a tackle we liked but he was taken right before, that's just the way the draft goes."
There are several options out there for the Broncos, including Charles Leno Jr., who was cut by the Bears on Monday. Leno started for the Bears at left tackle for the last six years before being released. He'll likely be one of the Denver's top options.
There's also Leno's counterpart in Chicago, Bobby Massie, who is also a free agent and started at right tackle the last seven seasons for the Bears. Other names include Tennessee's Dennis Kelly, Kansas City's Eric Fisher, Carolina's Russell Okung and Green Bay's Ricky Wagner.
The Broncos do also have practice squad tackle Quinn Bailey and undrafted rookie free agent Drew Himmelman, from Illinois State who is 6-foot-9, 320 pounds.
And a last resort is moving starting left guard Dalton Risner to right tackle and having rookie Quinn Meinerz start at guard, instead of center.
"He has always been an emergency tackle for us, especially in 2019," coach Vic Fangio said Friday. "Not so much last year since we were able to dress eight players and we usually had four tackles. He was never on the radar much last year. If we ever had to have a fifth one, he would've done it. It's something we always keep in the back of our minds when we make the 53-man roster and a game day roster."