As the Dolphins shuffle their roster and look to solidify the offensive line, they’ll save themselves some work by keeping right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Miami exercised a $9.3 million team option on James for the 2018 season, and it appears he will play on that contract this year. James and left tackle Laremy Tunsil both posted messages on Instagram hinting that they will continue to play together.
The Dolphins are able to rescind the option if James has recovered from the hamstring injury that ended his 2017 season in November, and coach Adam Gase indicated last month they were considering going that route.
“As far as medically, he’s healthy, and we’ve got to make a decision here coming up,” Gase said at the NFL Combine.
The team still has until Wednesday at 4 p.m. to rescind James’ contract, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. There would likely be a strong market for him.
The Dolphins drafted James, 25, No. 19 overall in 2014. He was healthy as a rookie and in 2016, starting all 16 games in both seasons, but played eight or fewer games in 2014 and ’17. Pro Football Focus ranked him the 17th-best tackle, left or right, in the league last season.
Gase seemed less impressed, saying he was inconsistent and hadn’t shown clear improvement in 2017.
“I think Ja’Wuan’s had some really good games, then he’s had some games where I’m sure he would say he wished he played a little better,” he said in November. “I think that’s been the story of the first half of our season: inconsistent across the board with everybody on offense. (Mike) Pouncey’s the only one I can say every game I’m seeing the same things that are good.”
By playing under the team option this year, his salary will eclipse the total of $8.4 million he earned over his first four seasons.
Keeping him gives Miami three starters locked in for the upcoming season. In addition to him and Tunsil, the Dolphins have Pouncey entrenched at center.
They have two guards in Jesse Davis and Ted Larsen, but the question now is whether they’re content to push ahead with this starting five. Larsen played left guard last season, but said he wanted to switch to right. Davis played both guard spots and right tackle for the Dolphins.
The team said one objective this offseason was to determine where Davis fits best, and hanging on to James rules out right tackle.
The Dolphins can still consider alternatives at guard in free agency, though one of the top targets is off the market. Former Carolina guard Andrew Norwell agreed to a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jaguars this morning.
Miami also has options in the draft, where it picks No. 11 in the first round and No. 42 overall in the second.
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