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The Denver Broncos have a preseason battle on their hands that could cost the team $15 million. Former offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James filed a grievance against the team seeking to recoup his salary, according to Pro Football Talk.

James’ legal team is arguing his injury occurred while he was training at the instruction or direction of the Broncos. His lawyers also said James was not working out alone, but with other members of the team.

“Claimant was not working out on his own,” James alleges at paragraph 5 of his grievance, which was filed earlier this morning and a copy of which PFT has obtained. “Claimant was working out as expressly and/or impliedly authorized and/or instructed by Respondent’s agents, including but not limited to the instructions and/or direction of the coach of Respondent and/or other agents of Respondent. Claimant was working out with other players on the team at the facility and mentoring younger players as requested and/or expressly and/or impliedly authorized by Respondent through its agent and/or agents.”

James’ team is also accusing the Broncos of not complying with COVID-19 regulations at team facilities.

James tore his Achilles while working out away from the team’s facility in May. A few weeks later, he was cut by the Broncos. James’ salary was voided as a result of him getting injured away from the team. 

The grievance is for James’ $10 million salary, as well as his $5 million signing bonus. If James’ legal team can prove collusion — that the Broncos cut James at the behest of the NFL — he would be due $30 million.

Will Ja’Wuan James win his $15 million grievance?

James’ argument is contingent on the Broncos knowing, or encouraging, him to take part in offseason workouts away from the team. Given the demands of the job, all NFL players engage in some type of offseason workout away from their teams. If they didn’t, players would only work out a few weeks in the offseason, and show up to training camp in rough shape. 

James’ lawyers are arguing that NFL rules should not apply in this instance because James was not engaging in reckless activity. If James’ legal team can prove he was working out with other teammates, and that the Broncos encouraged or implied those workouts were OK, he may have a shot at getting his salary back.

Anything more than that seems unlikely. Collusion is tough to prove unless James’ team can acquire hard evidence the NFL directed the Broncos to make the move. 

Regardless of the result, the rest of the league will be aware of James’ grievance. If James is unable to recoup his salary, it could force players to dig in even more on boycotting team workouts until changes are made.

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