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Clayton: The Broncos are in the middle of a messy situation with James

(Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ja’Wuan James tearing his Achilles has created another offseason battle between the NFL and the NFLPA. And the Broncos are caught right in the middle.

The NFL notified the league’s 32 teams that if a player who is away from the team facility can jeopardize the players’ salary. The NFLPA called the league “gutless” for using James’ injury to scare players to come back for workouts. at the team facility. The union said the league wants year-round control of the players.

But you would have to figure the Broncos aren’t going to play James his $10 million base salary for 2021. Injuries and last year’s opt out turned James into one of the worst signings in Broncos history.

James signed a four-year, $51 million deal that included a $12 million signing bonus. In 2019, he suffered a season-ending knee injury that limited him to three starts and 63 plays. Last year, he elected to opt out of the season.

He had a $5 million base salary in 2019. He made $150,000 last year in the opt out season. That means the Broncos have paid him $17.150 million for three games and 63 plays.

Even if the didn’t suffer the injury there was a decent chance they would cut him after the season. He has $11 million salaries in 2022 and 2023.

Now, the Broncos have to decide what to do. They can play hard ball. Hard ball would be voiding the guarantees on his contract that carries over from his opt-out season. They can try to prevent him from collecting his $10 million salary. They could also avoid paying his medical bills.

Figuring out a settlement might be the best option. There is no question the NFLPA would stand behind James if his salary would be wiped out.

The Broncos wasted no time getting the ball rolling, putting James on non-football injury list on Friday. The next step is the decision and potential battle over his schedule 2021 earnings.

For the team, the signing didn’t work out. They got 63 plays across three games for more $17 million. There is no way they will let the bill go up to $27 million. The situation is messy.