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Clayton: The Ravens gamble on former Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James

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

Early this week, the Ravens shocked everyone by reaching a two-year, $3.8 million deal with former Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James. It happened on the same day that James filed a $15 million grievance against Denver for his release after tearing his Achilles away from the team facility this offseason.

Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh came up with more shocking news that indicated James might be able to play this season. There is no guarantee, of course, but Harbaugh said there is a chance he could be able to play in late November or December.

The Broncos scrambled to replace James by signing Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming. The Ravens had to replace right tackle Orlando Brown because he wanted to play left tackle, but Ronnie Stanley has that spot and is making a little less than $20 million a year. The Ravens first signed former Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. They added veteran tackle Michael Schofield this week. On Thursday, they signed James.

Sure, it’s a long shot that James plays this year, but it could be a bonus for the Ravens if he can. While it may sound crazy for the Ravens to take this gamble, they were able to get him at a cheap price. The numbers won’t be out for a couple of days, but it’s likely his base salary would be $1.075 million. He will have $500,000 of that base guaranteed. The rest of the money is pushed into next year.

It’s reported that he could make as much as $9 million for two years because of incentives. The incentives would mean he could collect around $5.2 million if everything goes right next year. The Ravens can get out of the deal if they don’t pay a $200,000 roster bonus. It’s an interesting gamble.

As for the Broncos, there was no way they could keep him. He played only three games and 63 plays for the first three years of his contract. He was injured in 2019 and opted out last year. That doesn’t work when he got a four-year, $51 million contract.

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