Denver Broncos starting tackle Ja’Wuan James suffers season-ending torn Achilles

It’s been just a few days since the 2021 NFL Draft came to an end. Unfortunately, news coming from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday would have impacted the annual event if it had happened less than a week earlier.

Let us explain.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, starting Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending torn Achilles during an individual workout on Tuesday.

This is an absolutely massive blow for the Broncos after they struggled protecting the quarterback from the right side of the line a season ago with James opting out of the campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The injury comes after Denver doubled down in the defensive backfield with Patrick Surtain II in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft. If it had happened last week, we’re pretty sure that the Broncos would have gone with Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater with that selection.

James, 28, has played in all of three games with the Denver Broncos since they signed him to a four-year, $51 million contract back in March of 2019. Right now, the internal options to replace the veteran at right tackle are Calvin Anderson and Quinn Bailey. The team did not select a tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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Denver Broncos free agent options after Ja’Wuan James injury

Could the Denver Broncos sign Charles Leno?
December 23, 2018; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Charles Leno (72) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Another unfortunate timing aspect of this injury is the fact that it happened mere hours after the Baltimore Ravens signed the top remaining NFL free agent tackle on the market, Alejandro Villanueva.

The Denver Broncos will now have to hit the watered-down open market for some more pass protection in front of either Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater under center. Recently-released former Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno could be an option.

The same thing could be said for former Broncos tackle Russell Okung. Heck, Eric Fisher might be an option. However, that’s complicated by the fact that he’s also recovering from a torn Achilles’ suffered during the NFL Playoff last winter.

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