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Chargers Not Showing Signs of Worry Despite Derwin James' Contract Hold-In Lingering

Brandon Staley signals confidence in Derwin James as his contract hold-in reaches Day 14.

COSTA MESA – When the Chargers opened training camp on July 27th without Derwin James practicing as he seeks a new contract extension, the perception was he might miss a few days until they work out the fine details.

Three weeks later and 14 practices in, James still remains 'holding in' as he takes mental reps from the sideline without partaking in the team's individual or team period of practice.

The Chargers sit just under four weeks away from their season opener against the Raiders and James still needs time to transform his body into 'football shape.'

But head coach Brandon Staley stated Tuesday that he's not worried about his All-Pro safety. Staley has been through this type of situation before dating back to his days in Chicago with Khalil Mack, having to get him acclimated over a short span with the regular season quickly approaching.

“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," Staley said of James. 

"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.”

James, 26, is one of, if not the best safety, in the NFL when he's available. His issues stem from health. James missed 11 games in 2019 and the entirety of the 2020 season.

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Staley explained how having James around the team – rather than holding out – has given them confidence that once the contract is completed, he'll be right back into the swing of things in a short manner of time.

"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. "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' contract is quite the unique situation. Factoring in his injury history, paired with what he's capable of doing on the field, he's not your typical safety. James has played various roles in Staley's defense and that adds, perhaps, another factor into the on-going negotiations. James is more of a do-it-all defender, than he is a safety.

“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."

James is expected to net a contract that exceeds Minkah Fitzpatrick's recent deal from the Steelers, which is set to pay him $73.6 million across four years, including $36 million in guarantees.


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