John Harbaugh: Ja’Wuan James Could Be Ready To Play By End Of Season, But ‘We’re Not Counting On That’

Tackle Ja'Wuan James

The Baltimore Ravens announced on Monday that they had agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Ja’Wuan James, the former starting tackle for the Denver Broncos, who was recently released earlier this offseason after suffering an injury while working out on his own.

The Broncos’ decision to release him and escape more than $10 million worth of guaranteed salary James would otherwise have been owed if he were injured while working out at the team’s facility has sparked a major controversy, and grievances have been filed. But in the meanwhile, he is looking to move on.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh yesterday told reporters that he believes James may possibly be able to return to the field in 2021, late in the year, but he also said that it’s not something they were counting on. They are really basically paying him to rehab this year and get right for 2022.

The Achilles injury is one that he could possibly be back this year even – November, December maybe”, he was quoted as saying following yesterday’s OTA session, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “I wouldn’t say we’re counting on that. But it’s certainly something you know is possible”.

The reason the team is in the market for a tackle, of course, is because former starting right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. forced his way off the team because he wanted to only play left tackle, and Baltimore already has an All-Pro left tackle in Ronnie Stanley, who himself is returning from injury last year.

The Ravens were able to move Brown, trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs, and then signed former Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who is projected to move to the right side and start for his former division rival.

James’s two-year deal is said to be worth up to $9 million, pending a physical, which will not take into account his Achilles injury, for obvious reasons. He will earn $500,000 guaranteed this year, plus an additional $500,000 as a roster bonus (presumably if he is able to make it onto the roster?), in 2021. He has a $2.5 million base salary for next season with an additional $5 million he can earn in incentives.

Undoubtedly one of those incentives is games/snaps played, but Villanueva is also under contract with the Ravens for 2022, so he will have to compete against the former Pro Bowler as he enters his second year on the right side.

James has started 65 games in his career, though he has only played in three since 2018, due to injury and the pandemic. Villanueva has started 90 of 96 career games, having been named to the Pro Bowl in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and has never missed a game over six seasons, logging more than 6,000 snaps.

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