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Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. wasn’t going to go full speed at training camp until his contract situation was settled.
The Pro Bowl safety can now be a full participant at training camp as James is signing a four-year, $76.4 million extension with the Chargers, according to ESPN.
The deal makes James the highest-paid safety in NFL history, as James will make an average of $19.13 million per year.
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While James has participated in walkthroughs throughout training camp, he has not taken part in practice.
“I don’t look at Derwin as a safety,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley told reporters on Tuesday. “I look at Derwin as an impact player. If you were just looking at him as a safety, that wouldn’t be doing Derwin justice. For me, I look at him as a defensive back.”
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“Because he can play anywhere. He can play either safety spot, he can play corner, he can play star or money. 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 defense, whether he’s playing low or high. And he’s our signal-caller and the heartbeat of our defense.”
James was entering the final year of his rookie contract and was scheduled to make a little over $9 million for the 2022 NFL season but was eligible for a contract extension.
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The Chargers drafted James with the 17th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he was selected to the NFL All-Rookie Team and the Pro Bowl, and was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season.
After playing in all 16 games during his rookie campaign, James played in just five games during the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to injury. Last season, James bounced back, making his second Pro Bowl after recording 118 tackles in 15 games.
During James’ “hold in,” he had support from both Staley and star defensive end Joey Bosa, who told reporters that James was doing the right thing by not participating fully until his contract was settled.
“He’s, I think, doing the right thing,” Bosa said, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. “He obviously deserves whatever he’s gonna get. He puts in 100% every single day. He’s just making the best decision for him right now.
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“But the fact that he’s out here coaching the guys, fully involved, 100% locked in every day, it obviously means a lot to all of us. I’m sure the coaches see it and really appreciate it.”
The Chargers play their second preseason game on Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys.