DAVIE — Ju’Wuan James is out for the regular season, placed on injured reserve Saturday.
But is James out of the Dolphins’ organizational plans forever?
Though the Dolphins hold James’ contractual rights for a 1-year, $9.3 million deal in 2018. But if James is healthy by the start of the next league year March, they could let James go without any cap hit.
I asked Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Saturday, “Would you like to see him on the roster next year?”
And Gase did not reply with a simple, “Yes.”
“You know, we have to go through a long process before we even get to that,” Gase said. “I mean, obviously, I’m really big into make sure our guys stay here. We’re so far away from it. It’s hard for me to look past tomorrow. It’s hard to go that far.”
Gase has been given a few opportunities this season to endorse James and his responses, for the most part, have been lukewarm and tepid. That seems about how the Dolphins view James, who technically would be eligible to return from injured reserve for a playoff game this season.
If Miami and James, who is likely to undergo hamstring surgery, can work out a reasonable long-term contract, it seems it would be best for all parties involved.
Though the Dolphins aren’t subscribers to the evaluation service Pro Football Focus, that organization rates James as the 10th-highest paid offensive tackle in the NFL this season, including the fifth-best pass blocker in the NFL.
The Dolphins aren’t going to be him at a level commensurate with those rankings. But would another team pay James $9 million on a one-year deal, or a multi-year deal worth in excess of $8 million a year?
James played right tackle, which complicates things, and fair or not, devalues his worth as compared to a left tackle. But if James is let go, Miami will be rebuilding it’s offensive line with Laremy Tunsil (a left tackle who has not yet performed to his ability)… and… who?
Perhaps Mike Pouncey, though it’s hard to say how long he can anchor Miami’s offensive line.
At times, Miami has wanted James to be more precise on his footwork and technique as well as to be more consistent in his assignments and on-field decision-making.
The only right tackles now averaging more than $9 million a season are Lane Johnson of the Eagles ($11.2 million) and Ricky Wagner of the Lions ($9.5 million).
It seems the Dolphins and James could come to a four- or five-year agreement worth between $6 and $6.5 million per season. Bryan Bulaga of the Packers has a 5-year, $33.75 million deal which seems like a reasonable comparable.
Unless the Dolphins have just seen enough of their former first-round pick. Unless they feel they can find a player to perform on that level for less in free agency, or for in the first three rounds of the next NFL draft.
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