Chargers and Pro Bowl safety James agree four-year extension
The Los Angeles Chargers have made Derwin James the highest-paid safety in NFL history after the two-time Pro Bowler reportedly agreed to a four-year, $76.5 million extension.
According to NFL.com, James will receive $42million in guaranteed money and is due $29m – a record for a defensive player – in the first year of the deal, which will start in 2023 and runs through 2026.
James was entering the final year of his rookie contract and was at training camp but not practising while negotiations were taking place.
The extension surpasses the four-year, $73m deal that Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick signed in June, while the $42m in guarantees is also a record for a safety. Seattle Seahawks star Jamal Adams received $38m guaranteed on the extension he signed last summer.
The 17th overall selection of the 2018 draft, James made an instant impact with a stellar rookie campaign in which he started all 16 games for the Chargers and compiled 105 tackles, three interceptions, 3.5 sacks and 13 passes defensed while earning All-Pro honours.
James appeared in only five games over the next two seasons due to injuries, including a meniscus tear in his knee that sidelined him for all of 2020.
The 26-year-old bounced back with a strong 2021 season in which he posted 118 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks in 15 games to garner his second career Pro Bowl nod.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley recently spoke of James' importance to the defence while lauding the 6-foot-2, 215-pound standout's versatility.
"I don't look at Derwin as a safety. I look at Derwin as an impact player," Staley told The Athletic.
"I think if you were just looking at him as a safety, that wouldn't be doing Derwin justice.
"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 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 defence, whether he's playing low or high. And he's our signal-caller and the heartbeat of our defence."