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

Do-it-all safety Derwin James gets 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 officially announced the multi-year extension.

The offer makes James the highest-paid safety in NFL history at typically $19.1 million each year and carries a record-breaking $42 million in guaranteed money, with $29 million because of him in the initial year of his deal, Rapoport reported. James leaps on the likes of Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Seattle’s Jamal Adams with regards to both total value and average annual salary with the massive payday.

It’s deserved and needed. 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 a far more impressive resume if injuries didn’t cost him 11 games in 2019 and the complete 2020 season.

Regardless of to the Chargers, who clearly know very well what they will have in James and aren’t afraid to consult with their wallet. James ranked in the very best five in tackles, tackles for loss, quarterback hits and forced fumbles last season, and he was the only real safety with 100-plus tackles, several sacks and five or even more tackles for loss. Actually, it’s only the next time any safety in the league has already reached those marks within the last four seasons (Adams did so in 2018 with the Jets).

James’ five-tool capability is evident on both film and in his Pro Football Focus marks. James posted the very best coverage grade of any safety in the PFF era in 2018, while his passer rating was the fifth-lowest among safeties with at the very 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 a nutshell, he’s consistently effective all around the field, and the Chargers don’t shy from using him therefore. James is among 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 across the defensive line.

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

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