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Chargers Sign S Derwin James to Record-Breaking Contract Extension

The Chargers and safety Derwin James have struck a deal on a contract extension.

COSTA MESA – The Chargers and All-Pro safety Derwin James have reached a contract extension, making him the highest-paid player at his position.

James is signing a four-year, $76.532 million extension, including $42 million in guarantees, the most ever for a safety, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. James will make $29 million in year one of the deal.

James, 25, has established himself among the best players at the safety position, which inevitably led to a payday of this caliber, which will pay him $19.1 million per year.

In June, Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a lucrative contract extension to remain with the Steelers, coming to terms on a four-year, $73.6 million contract that includes $36 million guaranteed.

As Fitzpatrick set the new benchmark, it was clear the Chargers would need to surpass an average salary of $18.4 million.

“I don’t worry about Derwin James because there is no one that has more pride in his performance and his ability to be in shape, mentally and physically, to do the job at the highest level than him," head coach Brandon Staley said of James on Tuesday, the day before signing his extension.

"Fortunately, I have a little bit of a background with a situation like that. When we traded for Khalil [Mack] in Chicago, Khalil did not have an offseason. He did not have a training camp. He showed up one week before the first game. Then, he had the game of his life. Then, he had his best season as an NFL player. If you know guys like Derwin and like Khalil, they’re going to be ready. No matter when this happens, Derwin is going to be ready. We can’t wait for that time when it comes.”

Throughout James' contract hold-in, he's been in attendance of each training camp practice, partaking in the daily walkthrough, but only taking mental reps and not participating for the remainder of practice such as individual and team periods.

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"I don’t worry about Derwin. Derwin has given us no reason to worry because of how he is on a day-to-day basis," Staley said Tuesday. "We see him every day. It’d be one thing if he wasn’t here, but we see him every day. He’s in the best shape of his life. This is the first time in a while that he has had a full offseason with nothing to prohibit him from training. He feels great, so that gives us a lot of confidence.”

James' rookie deal included a four-year, $12.3 million contract with a fifth-year option. Prior to becoming the highest-paid safety, he was slated to play on the fifth-year option that was set to pay him $9.05 million in 2022.

“I don’t look at Derwin as a safety. I look at Derwin as an impact player," Staley said. "I think the reason why, if you were just looking at him as safety, that wouldn’t be doing Derwin justice. For me, I look at him as a defensive back. When I see him, I’m like, ‘That’s a defensive back,’ because he can play anywhere; he can play either safety spot, he can play corner, he can play Star or Money, he can rush the quarterback and make an impact as a blitzer. He can make an impact in man-to-man coverage, and then he can make an impact in zone defense, whether he’s playing low or high — and he’s our signal caller and the heartbeat of our defense."

After missing the 2020 season, James returned to form last year, recording 118 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two interceptions, five pass breakups, two sacks, seven quarterback hits and three forced fumbles.

James will join J.C. Jackson on the back-end of the Chargers defense, forming arguably the best cornerback-safety combo in the NFL.

The Chargers will hold a two-day joint practice with the Cowboys on Wednesday and Thursday at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex at 11:15 a.m. PT.


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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.