The Baltimore Ravens made the surprising, yet savvy move to sign veteran offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James on Monday. The expectation was initially that James would re-enter the fold once he recovers from his torn Achilles in 2022.
However, there’s a chance he could return even sooner than anticipated.
Head coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media following Tuesday’s practice and he revealed that James could come back from his injury as soon as November or December.
He did insist that this scenario isn’t something the Ravens are counting on, but that it is a possibility.
Ja’Wuan James could provide extra offensive line depth for the Ravens
James has been through a tumultuous few seasons since leaving the Miami Dolphins following the 2018 season. The former first-round pick signed a hefty four-year, $51 million contract with the Denver Broncos in the 2019 offseason.
Unfortunately, he’d play just three games in Denver.
A knee injury limited James to just those three games in 2019, he opted out of the 2020 season, and then tore his Achilles while working out last month.
The Broncos released James shortly after his injury and it was expected that the 29-year-old would sit out this season while he rehabbed from his injury. But that rehab will now take place inside the Ravens’ training facilities.
James should return next season and be in the mix for the starting right tackle job, but what about if he returns in 2021? What might his role be this year?
If James does return at any point this season, he would help provide additional tackle depth behind Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva. Much-needed tackle depth, if I might add.
Stanley is coming off a major ankle injury that required two offseason surgeries. He’s expected to return to the field before Week 1, but it’s unclear when exactly that will be.
As for Villanueva, the 32-year-old will be playing a position he has hardly ever played before after spending six seasons as the starting left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The depth behind them is questionable, to say the least.
Veteran swing tackle Andre Smith opted out of last season and hasn’t been in attendance for OTAs. 2020 third-round pick Tyre Phillips received a chance to start last year, but the Ravens view him as more of a guard than a tackle.
There’s also Patrick Mekari, who has primarily played center in his career, but could become an option at tackle as well.
It’s hard to argue that a healthy James wouldn’t be an upgrade over all of them, however. The Ravens saw firsthand last season how important offensive line depth is, especially as you get into the months of December and January.
Getting Ja’Wuan James back at any point this season would be a major win for Baltimore.