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NFL Rumors: Chargers 'Optimistic' About Reaching Derwin James Jr. Contract Extension

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 20, 2022

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The Los Angeles Chargers are reportedly "optimistic" that they'll reach terms with star safety Derwin James Jr. on a long-term contract extension, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

Per that report, the "expectation" from some people around the NFL is that James will become the league's highest-paid safety.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will lead all safeties in average annual value at $18.2 million after signing a four-year, $73 million deal this offseason.

James will likely look to exceed that figure, though in May he told reporters he wasn't focused on his contract.

"Whenever that takes care of itself, it takes care of itself," he said. "My job right now is just to help guys like [veteran edge-rusher] Khalil Mack and [rookie safety] JT Woods get up to speed."

The 25-year-old has already been a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro in his four-year career. After a stress fracture in his right foot cost him all but five games in 2019 and a torn meniscus kept him out for the 2020 campaign, James bounced back with 118 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 15 games.

Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 99 player in all of football, with Sam Monson writing that James earned "impressive grades of at least 76.5 in every facet of play" and remained "a dynamic and versatile playmaker on defense."

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James' injury history could be a concern for the Chargers. But there's little doubt he has been a difference-maker and is one of the team's most versatile playmakers.

"We feel like the way he plays, where he plays ... he's in the middle of the defense," head coach Brandon Staley told reporters in May. "He never leaves the field. We think that that's important. We think that can be an advantage."

It's an advantage that won't come cheap.

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