Big bucks, big decision, big year for Miami Dolphins RT Ja’Wuan James

Ja’Wuan James (right) plays a key role in protecting Ryan Tannehill. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

RT Ja’Wuan James

Height, weight: 6-6, 312

College: Tennessee

Age: 26

Experience: Fifth NFL season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: First-round pick in 2014

Contract: Was given fifth-year option by Dolphins, meaning he’ll earn $9.34 million this season

Pro Football Focus rank: tied for 17th out of 81

In 2017

Stats: Started eight games, then was placed on injured reserve Nov. 11 with a hamstring injury

Straight talk: When you think of Dolphins on the hot seat this year, names such as DeVante Parker come to mind.

But what about James?

After taking their time to think it over, the Dolphins granted James a fifth-year option even though it cost them $9.34 million and made him the highest-paid right tackle in the league.

In fact, James will make more in 2018 than all but 16 left tackles. And he’s the sixth-highest-paid player on this team.

Much of the focus has been on Parker’s inability to justify being taken in the first round. Less glare has been on James, the first-rounder one year earlier. It’s the nature of the positions, right tackle vs. receiver.

For what it’s worth — and I’m guarded in how much stock I put in Pro Football Focus rankings — James was rated as the 10th-best offensive tackle last season and fifth-best pass blocker.

Late last season, coach Adam Gase said he needed time to evaluate things before committing to bringing back James.

“We looked through all our options,” Gase said once the decision was reached.

Among the discussions, the Dolphins stressed the need for James to be more consistent. James got the message as he worked this spring with new line coach Jeremiah Washburn.

“Just using my technique every time,” he said. “That’s the hardest part, just doing the same thing, every time. No matter who you’re going against. Silent count. Whatever it is.”

Prospects for 2018

James’ performance will be vital toward protecting Ryan Tannehill and his surgically repaired right knee.

But first James has to stay healthy.

He has missed 17 of 64 games in his career, including nine games missed in 2015 because of a toe injury. This spring, James gave mixed signals as to how he was healing.

“I feel like I’m past it,” he said at one point.

But at other times, he sounded as if the hamstring still wasn’t where it needs to be. Example: “I’m focused on this hamstring and getting myself to 100 percent.”

There’s still time until training camp. Let’s see what August brings. 

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

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