Miami Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James will be entering free agency in the coming weeks, and will be one of the biggest names on the market at his position come March. But James may have a chance to stay in Miami providing certain moves that are expected to be made by the organization fall through.
The Dolphins are currently in a limited cap space situation, but that could change once players are released in the coming weeks.
Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel explained how the Dolphins could create a little over $50 million in cap space if quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive ends Andre Branch and Robert Quinn, wide receiver DeVante Parker, and guard Ted Larsen are released. This would give the Dolphins over $71 million in cap space with the new salary cap projected to be at $190 million.
Placing the Franchise or Transistion tag on James may be a little overpriced for the Dolphins. But providing that amount of cap space is created, it is not farfetched to retain James on a contract averaging $9M per season. Especially with a league cap that continues to grow year after year.
In addition to the cap space, the team’s new offensive line coach Pat Flaherty expressed his beliefs that James is talented and keeping him would add continuity to the offensive line.
“I think it keeps the continuity there, if we’re able to retain him. We sure hope he does. He’s a good football player. I’ve had an opportunity to go back and watch every game from 2018. He’s a fairly young guy also, so he has some things technique-wise that he can get better.”
James will be turning 27 in June, so he is indeed still fairly young. Youth is in an important aspect in Miami’s new rebuilding phase under General Manager Chris Grier and new head coach Brian Flores.
Flaherty also referred to both left tackle Laremy Tunsil and James as players that have a “high ceiling”. Former head coach Adam Gase’s coaching staff had similar thoughts when it came to James. Retaining him will be something to consider as there will be many holes to fill on the 2019 roster.
The Dolphins have seen the negative side of letting caliber players go to other teams this past season. Players like center Mike Pouncey, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and running back Damien Williams enjoyed success in their newfound cities and all made the playoffs in 2018. Even running back Jay Ajayi enjoyed a Superbowl ring after the team traded him to the Eagles during the 2017 season. Losing a player like James (Pro Football Focus’s #34 rated offensive tackle) could add another name to that list of players if he ventures to a new home.
But would James want to stay in Miami? That’s the question.
James hasn’t enjoyed much success in the NFL since being drafted by the Dolphins in 2014, and although the Dolphins may offer him a fair contract, he may not want to stay on a team that is again rebuilding and not likely to be winning during the next few years. James has been through two coaching regimes thusfar in Miami. He may not want to go through a third while he still has his prime years remaining.
James may want to go to an organization that is established and has stability at head coach, quarterback, and is seen to be a playoff contender for future seasons. If a team with these desirable traits offers James a contract northward of $10 million per season, James may be blowing bye-bye kisses to the Dolphins.
Money talks, but winning matters too. Free agency offers James a chance to get out, get paid, and start fresh on a new team and perhaps a winner.
Ja’Wuan James has his own interests to consider just like the Miami Dolphins do.