Denver Broncos' 2019 free-agent signings: Ja'Wuan James sets market

Ja'Wuan James will be the highest-paid right tackle in the league pending any deals in the coming days. Michele Sandberg/Icon Sportswire

A breakdown of the Denver Broncos' 2019 free-agent signings.

Ja'Wuan James, tackle

The Broncos signed Ja'Wuan James to a four-year deal worth up to $52 million. Here's a closer look at the tackle who spent the previous five seasons with the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway moved quickly to fill another prominent need on the roster. James will arrive as the starting right tackle, and the fact he was a primary target during the negotiating period means offensive line coach Mike Munchak has already given his seal of approval to the move. The Broncos have been interested in James, who played under Broncos assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper for the past three seasons with the Dolphins, for some time. After the Bears re-signed tackle Bobby Massie -- keeping him off the market -- the Broncos pivoted to James. After quarterback and cornerback, the Broncos had right tackle as their priority in free agency and will pay James that way. At $13 million per year, James will be the highest-paid right tackle in the league pending any deals in the coming days.

What's the risk: James has had injury issues at times, having missed eight games in 2017 and nine in 2015. His career starts have gone this way: 16 as a rookie in 2014, seven in 2015, 16 in 2016, eight in 2017 and 15 starts last season. The Broncos need him to be available every week and are paying him accordingly. At his best he's the agile, powerful guy who held Khalil Mack without a sack in Week 5 last season. During that game Mack finished with one tackle and Broncos coach Vic Fangio saw it up close as Chicago's defensive coordinator.


Bryce Callahan, cornerback

The Denver Broncos signed Bryce Callahan to a three-year deal worth up to $21 million. Here's a closer look at the cornerback who spent the previous four seasons with the Chicago Bears:

What it means: Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway has consistently said he believes free agency is where a team should address "glaring needs" to free up the draft to grab the best players available. Callahan is the second player the Broncos have signed in free agency who could line up at cornerback -- Kareem Jackson is the other --and they still need to continue to give the position some attention. They had three cornerbacks who have either left in free agency or the Broncos did not choose to re-sign them. They have a fourth -- Brendan Langley -- who is expected to move to wide receiver. Callahan played slot cornerback much of the time for Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. It could mean Fangio as the Broncos head coach sees Chris Harris Jr., who has routinely been asked to be the Broncos' slot corner, playing in a little variety of spots against three- and four-wide receiver sets. Overall, Fangio has said he's searching for versatility. Jackson can line up all over the secondary and Fangio used Callahan in a variety of roles as well, including rushing the passer from time to time.

What's the risk: The Broncos need Callahan to stay healthy. He's never started more than 10 games and never played more than 13 games overall. Even his best season in 2018 -- he finished with a career-best 45 tackles -- ended in December when he suffered a fractured foot. At that time Bears coach Matt Nagy had called Callahan "very valuable for us" and that the injury was a "big loss" in a year when the Bears finished the season first in the league in scoring defense as well as takeaways.


Kareem Jackson, cornerback

The Broncos signed Jackson to a three-year deal worth up to $33 million. Here's a closer look at the defensive back who spent the previous nine seasons with the Houston Texans:

What it means: The Broncos have a massive need at cornerback. They have three who are unrestricted free agents and a fourth -- Brendan Langley, a 2017 draft pick -- who has told others he plans to move to wide receiver. Adding Jackson gives the Broncos the best and most versatile cornerback on the market. Pairing Jackson with Chris Harris Jr. provides coach Vic Fangio with quality options in coverage. Harris is one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league and can consistently play at an elite level both on the outside and in the slot. The Broncos have also lined Harris up at safety for a smattering of snaps when needed, either by scheme or because of injuries to others. And Jackson, too, can play on the outside, in the slot and has seen time at safety as well.

What's the risk: Jackson will turn 31 in April so he's already beaten the odds in many ways at a position that isn't kind to most 30-somethings. He's been a healthy player for most of his career, having played at least 14 games in seven of his previous nine seasons. And while he's never played fewer than 12 games in a season, he's played in all 16 games in just four seasons. The Broncos could use some good fortune in free agency given their work last year was marred by injuries to Clinton McDonald, Marquette King, Tramaine Brock, Su'a Cravens and Adam Jones.