3 Instant Reactions to Derwin James Jr.'s Record-breaking Chargers Contract Extension

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 17, 2022

Derwin James (Chris Unger/Getty Images)

Derwin James Jr. became the highest-paid safety in NFL history by agreeing to a four-year, $76.4 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the financial details of the agreement. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network noted the deal includes $42 million in guaranteed money, which is also a new record for the position.

Here's a look at some instant reactions to the lucrative extension:

Chargers Eliminate "Hold-In" Concerns

James was part of an emerging trend this offseason of players opting to "hold in"—showing up for training camp but not taking part in practices while waiting for a new contract.

While missing some camp sessions and a preseason game he may not have played in wasn't a big deal, concerns were beginning to mount about whether the sides would be able to finalize an extension before the regular season.

Now those worries can fade away and the Chargers will have one of their foundational pieces on the field when they battle the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 on Sept. 11.

James is coming off a 2021 campaign where he registered 118 total tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions and two sacks across 15 appearances. He received a solid 78.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

L.A. is a popular pick to become this year's breakout team after narrowly missing the playoffs with a 9-8 record last season.

A core that includes James, quarterback Justin Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler, wide receiver Keenan Allen, cornerback J.C. Jackson and edge-rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack gives the roster several championship-level building blocks.

James' Injury History Represents Risk

James has established himself as one of the NFL's top safeties when healthy, earning a pair of Pro Bowl appearances and two First Team All-Pro selections, but injuries have been an issue.

The 26-year-old Florida State product was limited to five games in 2019 with a foot injury and missed the entire 2020 season with a torn meniscus.

He returned to play 15 of the Bolts' 17 games in 2021, and he showed no sign the injuries from the previous years would hamper his play moving forward.

The bottom line remains James must stay healthy if the Chargers are going to receive maximum value from the record-setting contract, though.

Before camp started in July, he told ESPN's Lindsey Thiry he was ready to roll for 2022.

"This is the best I've felt in the last four years," James said. "And I can't wait to go."

That's great news for the Chargers' defense.

Bengals' Jessie Bates III, Bills' Jordan Poyer Up Next

Now that James has reset the safety market, the focus shifts to other high-profile players are the position seeking new deals.

Bates has taken the more traditional route of holding out while trying to work out an extension. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on him in March.

Poyer, who's entering the final year of his contract, arrived at Bills camp on time after skipping voluntary offseason practices, but he's since been sidelined by an elbow injury.

"I want to be here," Poyer told reporters in July. "That's how I feel—I want to be here. I'm going to continue to be a leader for this team and continue to do what I can help this team win football games."

Despite their differing approaches to the situation, both Bates and Poyer should benefit from James' new deal. It could also help bridge the gap between the sides by providing the groundwork for what an extension may look like.

How long James' tenure as the highest-paid safety will last is a mystery, but getting a deal done with a couple of weeks for him to get back up to full speed before the season gets underway is a victory for all parties involved.


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