James, 29, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in a workout away from the facility last month. James had been guaranteed $10 million for the 2021 season, but because the injury took place off-site, it was designated as a non-football injury, meaning the Broncos were not obligated to pay his salary. The team later released him.
In his grievance, James is seeking his $10 million salary for the 2021 season and $5 million salary for the 2022 season, arguing that he was working out away from the facility under guidance from the Broncos. The NFL Players Association is not involved with James’ grievance, which was filed on his own with attorney Mark Geragos, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Denver coaches have routinely given players working out away from the facility specific workout protocols to follow during the offseason, if the players wish it. James, who opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, had also been in the team’s facility at times this offseason.
James’ injury has been a flashpoint between the NFL and the NFLPA over the non-football injury designation.
The day after James was injured last month, he was specifically named in a memo from the NFL’s management council to team executives and head coaches. In that memo it was outlined under the “Non-Football Injuries” designation that teams would have “no contractual obligation” to pay players like James who were injured away from the team facilities.
The NFLPA responded two days later in an email to players that said: “It was gutless to use a player’s serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.”
James played 63 snaps over three games combined — all in 2019 — after signing a four-year, $51 million deal with the Broncos in March of that year. He suffered a torn meniscus as well as a torn MCL in separate games that season.
The news of James’ grievance was first reported by ProFootballTalk.com.
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold and Dan Graziano contributed to this report.