Sources told ESPN on Wednesday that James suffered a season-ending injury in a private workout and will need surgery to repair the torn Achilles tendon.
The injury sparked outrage from players throughout the league, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who questioned how the team would not be obligated to pay a player for training.
The NFL issued a memo a short time later explaining just exactly why the Broncos “have no contractual obligation” to pay James as a result of the injury.
“Mr. James’ $ 10 million Paragraph 5 Salary for the 2021 season was fully guaranteed for skill, injury and cap purposes,” the memo began. “Several clubs have inquired about the contractual implications resulting from the fact that Mr. James sustained this season-ending injury while training away from the Broncos’ facility.”
“Injuries sustained while a player is working out ‘on his own’ in a location other than an NFL facility are considered ‘Non-Football Injuries’ and are outside the scope of a typical skill, injury and cap guarantee,” the memo continued. “Such injuries are also not covered by the protections found in paragraph 9 of the NFL Player Contract, meaning that clubs have no contractual obligation to provide salary continuation during the year the injury was sustained.”
The league also addressed the fact that many players appeared shocked by the clause.
“According to media coverage, several players have expressed surprise that Mr. James’ injury was not covered by his Injury Guarantee, although this point has been made frequently in our discussions with the NFLPA about the offseason program.”
The Broncos have the final say, but the team has yet to announce a decision.
James, 28, was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2012 as a first-round pick. He played four seasons before signing a four-year, $ 51 million deal with the Broncos in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season due COVID-19 concerns.