After James tore his Achilles working out away from the team facility as a part of the NFLPA’s campaign against OTAs, he was released by the Broncos with a non-football injury designation.
That voided the remaining guarantees on the deal James signed as a free agent with the team in 2019, which would have been $15 million in total.
However, James is arguing his injury should qualify as a football injury.
“Claimant was not working out on his own,” James alleges in the document. “Claimant was working out as expressly and/or impliedly authorized and/or instructed by Respondent’s agents, including but not limited to the instructions and/or direction of the coach of Respondent and/or other agents of Respondent. Claimant was working out with other players on the team at the facility and mentoring younger players as requested and/or expressly and/or impliedly authorized by Respondent through its agent and/or agents.”
James also claims the Broncos’ facility was not compliant with state COVID-19 protocols and that the NFI designation is being abused in his case.
“The purported historical purpose of an NFI designation is for protection against reckless and improper off-field player conduct. The intent was and is not to retaliate against veteran players (or any player) like Claimant during a global pandemic who are injured in the course and scope of employment when training for their Club and/or with the guidance and/or knowledge from the Club. A disturbing and dangerous precedent would be set by embracing such an interpretation that completely disregards player safety and basic dignity,” the grievance says.
Until the grievance is resolved, 40 percent of the contested amount, which comes out to $6 million, will come off of the Broncos’ cap.
James, 28, was taken with the No. 19 overall pick by the Dolphins back in 2014. He played out the final year of his four-year, $8.4 million contract and made a base salary of $1,569,327 for the 2017 season.
The Dolphins elected to pick up James’ fifth-year option for the 2018 season but he later departed for a four-year, $52 million contract that includes $32 million guaranteed with the Broncos in 2019.
James was set to make a base salary of $10 million for the 2020 season when he opted out. That was deferred to the 2021 season, but after tearing his Achilles, Denver released James with a June 1 designation.
In 2019, James was limited to appearing in just three games for the Broncos and making three starts at right tackle.
We’ll have more on James as the news is available.