Ravens make savvy move signing injured veteran OT Ja’Wuan James

Ravens, Ja'Wuan James (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Ravens, Ja'Wuan James (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens made a bit of a surprising move on Monday, although it was a savvy one nonetheless, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with free-agent offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, James is joining the Ravens on a two-year contract worth up to $9 million in total. However, there’s more to this signing than initially meets the eye.

James has played just three games over the last two years and is expected to miss this upcoming season after the tore his Achilles a little over a month ago.

The former Denver Broncos lineman actually filed a $15 million grievance against his former team earlier in the day before signing with the Ravens.

It’s been a busy 24 hours for Ja’Wuan James

Where does Ja’Wuan James fit in with the Ravens?

James’ contract will include just $500,000 in guaranteed money this season and he will still be required to pass a physical, although that physical won’t include his current injury — as should be obvious.

The goal is for James to return healthy in 2022 when he’ll be set to earn roughly $8 million. This is a move for the future, not the present.

A first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2014 NFL Draft, James battled injuries during his time in South Beach but still developed into a rock-solid starting right tackle.

He signed a hefty four-year, $51 million deal to join the Broncos in the 2019 offseason, but that signing would prove to be a disaster for both parties.

James played just three games in his first season with the team before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He was set to return in 2020 before he opted out due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The big-money tackle hoped to return and finally live up to his contract in 2021, but an Achilles injury he suffered working out away from the team facility cost him another year of his career.

Denver released him on May 14, 10 days after the injury occurred. Rather than wait a year for him to rehab, the Ravens were proactive and signed him with the understanding that he won’t play in his first year with the team.

When he returns in 2022, James could compete for the startight right tackle job with veteran Alejandro Villanueva who was signed to replace to departed Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason.

Villanueva will be on the second year of his two-year contract and could theoretically be cut following this season with a dead cap hit of $3.25 million if Baltimore opts for that route.

Of course, much of that will depend on how Villanueva plays in 2021 and how far along James is with his rehab.

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This is a smart signing for the Ravens who acquired a good player on a cost-friendly deal. It’s a low risk/high-reward type of move.

In other words, the best type of move.