Drew Lock is entering 2020 without his starting right tackle.
Ja'Wuan James officially opted out of participating in the upcoming season Monday. The Broncos tackle announced his decision via Twitter.
"After continuous conversation with my family over the past couple weeks about the NFL figuring out the plan for the 2020 season, I've decided to opt out," James wrote in a statement. "It is tough, but the right decision."
James arrived in Denver as a free agent in March 2019, signing a four-year, $51 million deal to provide the Broncos with a sturdy right tackle opposite the inconsistent Garett Bolles. James played in just three games in 2019, providing a small sample size that doesn't truly allow for a complete assessment of his first campaign in Denver.
If we turned to those assessing, we'd see James recorded a career-worst run-blocking grade of 41.6, per Pro Football Focus, but his lack of even half of a season's worth of action leaves his tale unfinished. A scheme change with the arrival of Pat Shurmur might have played in the tackle's favor in year two, but we won't know for sure until 2021 following Monday's news.
The loss of James creates a familiar void along Denver's offensive line, which general manager John Elway has attempted to meticulously rebuild in the last two years, and which very well could have a direct impact on the development of Lock, the embodiment of Denver's hope on the offensive side of the ball. Next up on the current depth chart is Elijah Wilkinson, Denver's swing tackle who appeared in 15 games and saw a full season's worth of snaps in 2019. He was expected to compete with Bolles for the left tackle job, but with James now out of the 2020 picture, he should end up starting on the right side.
Wilkinson's presence might help lessen the blow of losing James, though Denver's depth will be affected. We'll see how well he can protect Lock in 2020.