Chargers safety Derwin James signing four-year, $76.5 million extension

Do-it-all safety Derwin James is getting paid like one.

James signed a four-year, $76.5 million extension with the Chargers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Wednesday. The team later announced the multi-year extension.

The deal makes James the highest-paid safety in NFL history at an average of $19.1 million per year and includes a record-breaking $42 million in guaranteed money, with $29 million due to him in the first year of his deal, Rapoport reported. James leaps over the likes of Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Seattle’s Jamal Adams in terms of total value and average annual salary with the massive pay day.

With James’ agreement came the end to his hold-in, as he had reported to training camp and preseason practices, but was not taking part in team drills.

“It’s definitely been difficult watching, because I’m a competitor,” James said on NFL Total Access Live. “I want to be out there with my guys. I want to help them in the best way I can. But I understand business is business, so I had to just do what I can, just show up everyday in the ways I could to help my guys.”

The new deal is well deserved. James earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018 and two Pro Bowl bids in his first four NFL seasons, and he’d likely have an even more impressive resume if injuries didn’t cost him 11 games in 2019 and the entire 2020 season.

No matter to the Chargers, who clearly know what they have in James and aren’t afraid to speak with their wallet. James ranked in the top five in tackles, tackles for loss, quarterback hits and forced fumbles last season, and he was the only safety with 100-plus tackles, two or more sacks and five or more tackles for loss. It’s only the second time any safety in the league has reached those marks in the last four seasons (Adams did so in 2018 with the Jets).

James’ five-tool capability is evident on the film and in his Pro Football Focus marks. James posted the best coverage grade of any safety in the PFF era in 2018, while his passer rating was the fifth-lowest among safeties with at least 40 targets last season, and his 89.1 overall grade when aligned in the box was the fourth-best among 199 qualifying defenders.

In short, he’s consistently effective all over the field, and the Chargers don’t shy away from using him as such. James is one of just two defenders since 2018 to align in the box on 40-plus percent of snaps, 20-plus percent at traditional free safety, 20-plus percent in the slot and — here’s the kicker — 10-plus percent along the defensive line.

Los Angeles selected James 17th overall in 2018, a pick seen as a steal at the time and confirmed by James’ performance since then. The only negative mark on his resume has been his health, and after missing just two games in 2021, the Chargers felt comfortable enough to extend him before the fifth and final year of his rookie contract began in September.

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