Derwin James

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Bolts, Broncos

Given a deal that was $10MM north of the previous NFL AAV record two summers ago, Patrick Mahomes has seen his $45MM-per-year pact fall to fourth. This offseason saw Aaron Rodgers surpass $50MM per year and Deshaun Watson‘s fully guaranteed $46MM-per-year pact lead to Kyler Murray signing for $46.1MM on average. Mahomes received the $45MM salary because he agreed to a 10-year extension, and the superstar Chiefs quarterback has said he is unconcerned about where is contract currently stands among QBs. But a source informed Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed the Chiefs could adjust his deal “sooner than later.” Mahomes, 26, has never been expected to play out his through-2031 contract. It will be passed many times between now and its expiration date. Lamar Jackson is almost certainly gunning for a deal north of that $45MM figure. It does not look like the Chiefs will be addressing the contract this year, but in addition to Jackson, Russell Wilson should be expected to pass Mahomes’ pact by 2023. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will also be extension-eligible in January.

A team agreeing to redo a player’s deal with so many years left on it stands to be an interesting contract chapter — one that may not be too far in the future — but Mahomes is rather important to this franchise’s prospects. Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • From one previous contractual record to a current position’s standard, the ChargersDerwin James re-up looks quite good for the player. James’ $19MM-per-year extension tops safeties in AAV; it also compares favorably to Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams‘ deals in terms of its three-year payout ($58.5MM) and fully guaranteed money ($38.6MM), OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald tweets. Given James’ injury history, the Bolts’ $42MM in total guarantees matters as well. His 2023 base salary is fully guaranteed, and $3.4MM of his 2024 base becomes fully guaranteed in March 2023, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Two 90-man roster bonuses worth $3MM are due in 2025 and ’26, respectively, though those base salaries are nonguaranteed. James will count less than $10MM against the Chargers’ cap in 2022 and 2023, but those numbers go way up by the mid-2020s: $19.9MM (2024), $23.9MM (2025), $24.6MM (2026).
  • Asante Samuel Jr.‘s path back to the Chargers’ starting lineup appears to be narrowing. While Samuel entered camp as the outside cornerback starter opposite J.C. Jackson, Michael Davis has taken over in recent days. Brandon Staley said the competition remains open, but The Athletic’s Daniel Popper notes Davis has played in front of Samuel for several days. A former UDFA the Bolts re-signed on a three-year deal worth $25.2MM in 2021, Davis appears to be distancing himself in this battle, per Popper (subscription required). Davis, 27, has been a Chargers starter for the past three years. Samuel also has slot experience, something that could come into play considering Bryce Callahan‘s injury past. The mid-offseason addition, however, has been manning the slot with the Bolts’ first unit.
  • The Broncos, who have lost starting wideout Tim Patrick for the season and likely linebacker starter Jonas Griffith for several weeks, are starting to see injuries pile up. Netane Muti, who has been battling Quinn Meinerz for the starting right guard gig, is out due to an arthroscopic knee surgery. Muti will miss between three and four weeks, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter links). This effectively walls off the third-year blocker’s path to a starting role, for the time being. The Broncos have Meinerz and Dalton Risner as their expected guard starters, though Graham Glasgow is still in the mix after returning from a season-ending 2021 setback.

Chargers, Derwin James Agree To Safety-Record Contract

After a lengthy hold-in effort, Derwin James is now the highest-paid safety in NFL history. The Chargers and James agreed on a four-year extension Wednesday morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

James and the Bolts agreed to terms on a deal worth $19.1MM per year, per Rapoport. The $76.5MM pact comes with a safety-record $42MM guaranteed and $29MM in Year 1. James, who is now the only safety attached to more than $40MM guaranteed, is also now tied to a higher average salary than all but five cornerbacks.

This windfall follows the likes of D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel and Diontae Johnson of staging hold-in measures and being rewarded. But the Bolts and their top safety have been negotiating for months. This also represents a considerable reward for a player who battled extensive injury troubles over the course of his rookie contract.

From 2019-20, James played in just five games. An August 2019 stress fracture in James’ right foot shelved him for much of that season, and a meniscus injury during training camp in 2020 ended up sidelining the former first-round pick for all of that season. During his two healthy years, however, the Florida State product has been one of the NFL’s best defensive backs. The Chargers rewarded him as such and will count on the 26-year-old talent for the next several seasons.

After sliding to No. 17 overall in the 2018 draft, James became the first pure safety to earn first-team All-Pro recognition as a rookie since the AFL-NFL merger. He delivered a versatile debut season for the Chargers, who waited patiently for his return. Last season, James finally re-emerged on the career path he began to traverse as a rookie. Pro Football Focus rated him as a top-10 safety in 2021. James made a career-high 118 tackles (seven for loss), forced three fumbles, collected two sacks and intercepted two passes last season.

The Chargers now have two DBs making high-end money, giving James a monster extension after signing J.C. Jackson to a top-10 cornerback contract. The two will be tasked with spearheading a defensive turnaround. Despite James’ contributions, Brandon Staley‘s first Chargers defense ranked 26th in defensive DVOA. This offseason, the Bolts reloaded and will surround James with more talent. Jackson, Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Kyle Van Noy are now in the fold for what is expected to be an AFC contender.

Wednesday’s transaction illustrates a changing safety market as well. After Justin Simmons broke through the $14MM-per-year ceiling in 2021, when the Broncos rewarded their twice-franchise-tagged player, Jamal Adams came in with a market-resetting deal at $17.5MM per year. At the time of Adams’ agreement, the Seahawks had created a $2MM-plus AAV gap between Adams and the field. The Steelers, via their $18.2MM-AAV deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Chargers have now topped that this summer. The league’s first $20MM-per-year safety accord may not be far off.

GM Tom Telesco has rewarded both his 2017 and ’18 first-round picks this offseason, with Mike Williamsthree-year, $60MM deal preceding James’ re-up. This comes after 2016 first-rounder Joey Bosa signed a long-term second contract. The Chargers, for this year at least, have the benefit of building around 2020 first-rounder Justin Herbert‘s rookie contract. The Chargers are acting accordingly. In Bosa, Mack, Jackson and James, the Bolts have four defenders making at least $15MM per year.

Latest On Extension Talks Between Chargers, Derwin James

AUGUST 14: There has been no change in the status of negotiations between James and the Chargers, per head coach Brandon Staley (Twitter link via Thiry).

JULY 27: As training camp begins, no James-Chargers agreement is imminent, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. Although mutual interest exists regarding a James extension — one that would likely make him a top-three highest-paid safety — the sides are not there yet. While James waits for a new contract, count him as a “hold in” performer. James is not practicing with the team presently, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

JULY 24: James plans to report to Chargers training camp even if he does not yet have a new contract in hand, per Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com. Thiry does suggest that an extension could be in place by the report date (which is just two days away), so it sounds as if player and team continue to move closer to an accord.

With respect to the injury problems that have dogged him during the first few years of his pro career — including offseason labrum surgery that limited him during spring work — James said, “this is the best I’ve felt in the last four years, and I can’t wait to go.”

JULY 20: A Derwin James extension could be coming. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports (via Twitter) that the Chargers are optimistic that they’ll reach an agreement with their star safety.

The 2018 first-round pick earned his second career Pro Bowl nod this past season after finishing with 118 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus was fond of his performance, ranking James ninth among 92 eligible safeties. The safety was limited to only five games in 2019 before sitting out the 2020 campaign, so it was a positive sign for both the player and organization that he could return to his Pro Bowl status.

His performance was also a positive development for the player’s earning potential. In fact, Fowler tweets that there’s “expectation from some” in the NFL that James will ultimately sign a contract that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick paces the position with an $18.2MM average annual value, followed by Jamal Adams ($17.5MM AAV), Harrison Smith ($16MM AAV), Justin Simmons ($15.2MM AAV), and then four players making between $14MM and $15MM.

James will command at least $17MM per year, but if he intends to reset the market, he could sign a deal that exceeds $19MM per year. The safety franchise tag in 2022 was $12.9MM, and even assuming it goes up, there’s little chance that route would satisfy the impending free agent. Of course, it seems unlikely the Chargers would play hard ball with their homegrown player, anyway…especially after they ponied up to add defenders Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson this offseason.

We heard last month that the two sides had engaged in preliminary discussions regarding an extension, and it sounds like both sides were hopeful that it’d get done before the start of the regular season. While the Chargers appear to be willing to pay up for James, the player’s injury history slightly complicates negotiations. Besides his injury issues in 2019, James also had offseaosn shoulder surgery that forced him to miss minicamp, although it sounds like his absence was just precautionary.

Latest On Chargers S Derwin James

Chargers safety Derwin James had offseason shoulder surgery that has limited him during the early part of minicamp, reports USA Today’s Tyler Dragon (on Twitter). While James is limited, it’s a good sign that he’s already on the field, and Dragon notes that the defensive back is expected to be a full participant by the time training camp comes around.

[RELATED: Latest On Derwin James Extension Talks]

“Derwin didn’t participate in any of the seven-on-seven this spring because of him coming off the labrum surgery,” coach Brandon Staley told reporters (via ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry). “We wanted to make sure he stayed out of the competitive seven-on-seven. He did all the individual work … he was in all our 11-on-11 team stuff.”

“It was more just precautionary in nature and if you know anything about Derwin, it killed him that he wasn’t out there, for sure.”

James missed a pair of contests in 2021 because of a hamstring injury, but he otherwise started 15 games. As Thiry observes, James did land on the injury report early in the season with a shoulder ailment, but it didn’t force him to miss any time. The former first-round pick earned his second Pro Bowl nod in 2021 after finishing with 118 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. The safety was limited to only five games in 2019 before sitting out the 2020 campaign, so it was a positive sign for both the player and organization that he could return to his Pro Bowl status.

With James entering the final year of his rookie contract, Dragon tweets that the two sides have started “preliminary” discussions on a long-term deal. There have been recent reports that the organization and the safety were both optimistic that they’d agree on an extension before the start of next season. The two sides are expected to continue negotiating with the expectation that they’ll agree to a deal before the start of next season.

Latest On Derwin James Extension Talks

The Chargers have made multiple large additions to their defense this offseason, but there is still important business to be taken care of with one of the unit’s homegrown players. Safety Derwin James is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but there is reason to believe he will have a new deal by the start of next season. 

[RELATED: Mutual Interest For James Extension]

USA Today’s Tyler Dragon reports (on Twitter) that both James and the team are “cautiously optimistic” a new contract will be negotiated in the near future. It was reported last month that each party was looking to get a long-term deal done, so a lack of friction on the matter (at least for now) doesn’t come as a surprise.

James, 25, has demonstrated the potential he was touted with coming out of college in 2018. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in a highly productive rookie season. While he was limited to just five games the following year, he still graded out well in terms of PFF rating. He bounced back from missing the entire 2020 campaign, starting all 15 contests he played in last season.

While dollar figures on a new contract may be hard to speculate on, given the Florida State product’s varied usages and positional versatility, there is cause for optimism that James could join Mike Williams as a key piece to the roster being retained for the long-term future. If that happens, defensive additions such as Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson could help vault the Chargers into true AFC contention.

Mutual Interest For Derwin James Extension

Chargers’ safety Derwin James is currently set to head into the fifth year of his rookie contract, after the team exercised his fifth-year option in April of last year. According to Tyler Dragon of USA Today, there’s mutual interest in getting a long-term extension done, but negotiations will not start until the summer. 

James was a first-round draft pick for the Chargers in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Florida State prospect shot out of a cannon finishing second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting and being announced as a first-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in his rookie season. His sophomore season was cut short after having surgery due to a stress fracture in his right foot. His 2020 NFL season got cut short before it even started with James suffering a torn meniscus a week before the team’s season opener. James made his long-anticipated return to the gridiron this past season, returning to form while making his second Pro Bowl team and finishing third in Comeback Player of the Year voting.

James’ numbers won’t pop out at you. Even when only looking at his two full seasons of play, his totals of 5 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks, and 11.0 tackles for loss over two years won’t rank anywhere near the top of any position groups. While the Chargers list him as a safety, his role is much closer to a glorified linebacker. When healthy, James will absolutely be one of the team’s top tacklers. He has a nose for the football and can find his way to the ball-carrier effectively. And, while not elite in any of the above statistical categories, his ability to cover, force turnovers, rush the passer, and make plays behind the line of scrimmage make him a valuable asset to the Los Angeles defense. It is truly his versatility they value.

It is this same versatility that makes a contract discussion for James a troubling concept. Do they pay James like a top-tier strong safety or shell out a little extra to pay him like a top tier linebacker?

The top safeties in the game, that don’t play exclusively in a free safety role, are players like Budda Baker ($14.75MM aav), John Johnson ($11.25MM aav), and Micah Hyde ($9.63MM aav). The top linebackers in the game, that aren’t pass-rushing specialists, are players like Darius Leonard ($19.7MM aav), Bobby Wagner ($18MM aav), and C.J. Mosley ($17MM aav). So, obviously, if you were going to pay him like you play him, James’ extension numbers should be closer to the $17-20MM per year range than the $9-15MM per year range.

Luckily, there is a very similar player in the NFL who has set a precedent for James and the Chargers to work off of: Seahawks’ safety Jamal Adams. Adams doesn’t play the field like a normal safety, either. He only has four career interceptions to his name. He does tend to make more plays on the ball when it’s in the air totaling 33 passes defended over five seasons. Adams also tends to get to the quarterback and make plays in the backfield more often than James. In 2019 & 2020 alone, Adams racked up 16.0 sacks and 21.0 tackles for loss, contributing to his career totals of 21.5 and 43.0 respectively.

As of right now, if the Chargers were to offer James an extension before he plays out his fifth-year option, I would expect the offer to look a bit like a watered-down-version of Adams’ deal. Upon finishing his first season in Seattle after being traded from the Jets to the Seahawks, Adams signed a four-year deal worth $70MM, averaging $17.5MM per year. Based off of Adams’ deal, I would expect Los Angeles to offer James a three- to four-year deal in the range of $12-15MM per year. James’ injury history will likely keep him from reaching the top-tier numbers of Adams.

That being said, with James lacking the statistical output in college, as well, the Chargers did draft him largely based off of his potential. With injuries keeping James from fully displaying his abilities over the past four years, maybe the Chargers will have much more faith in him than he’s been able to show thus far. They value him as a player and a leader, making him a team captain this past season. Perhaps they will offer him a long-term contract that reflects that.

Derwin James Receives Full Clearance

Injuries have sidetracked Derwin James‘ career, preventing the former first-round pick from building on his rookie-year All-Pro performance. The standout Chargers safety has played in five games since receiving that acclaim.

The Chargers still picked up James’ fifth-year option, however, and the fourth-year veteran is set to return to work. Brandon Staley said James has received full clearance to participate in workouts, via NFL.com’s Omar Ruiz (on Twitter). James suffered a torn meniscus during Bolts training camp last year, sidelining him for the entire 2020 season.

[RELATED: Chargers Exercise Derwin James’ Fifth-Year Option]

In 2019, a foot injury sidelined James for 11 games. The Florida State alum played 16 games as a rookie, delivering one of the best seasons by a first-year defender in NFL history. That helped the Chargers to a 12-4 record. The team has gone through some changes since, the Staley hire chief among them.

The Bolts entered last summer with four first- or second-team All-Pros in their secondary, but the group did not spend too much time playing together. Los Angeles lost Chris Harris for a chunk of last season, and Desmond King was traded ahead of the October deadline. Casey Hayward is now out of the picture as well. The Chargers, however, are on the verge of having the centerpiece of their secondary back at work. That should aid Staley’s effort to recharge the Bolts’ defense considerably.

James recorded 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and tallied 13 passes defensed in 2018. The Chargers have been waiting for him to return to form for a while now. While the wait continues, James is back in position to contribute on the field.

Chargers Exercise Derwin James’ Fifth-Year Option

The Chargers have exercised safety Derwin James‘ fifth-year option, as James Palmer of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). That decision will guarantee James a $9.052MM salary in 2022.

James’ talent should have made this an easy call. The Florida State product was tremendous in his rookie season in 2018, racking up three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and 3.5 sacks. That year culminated in a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs for Los Angeles and First Team All-Pro honors for James.

But James’ subsequent injury problems might have given the Chargers pause. A stress fracture in his right foot limited James to just five games in 2019, and he suffered a knee injury in practice shortly before the start of the 2020 campaign, which wiped out his entire season. It was reported that the ensuing meniscus surgery would require six to eight months of recovery time, and while we have not heard anything definitive, that timeline and the fact that the team picked up James’ fully-guaranteed option suggest that he is expected to be ready to go come Week 1.

If Los Angeles’ roster can stay relatively healthy in 2021, the club should have a real chance at a postseason berth. The Chargers filled a major need at left tackle in the first round of last night’s draft by picking up Northwestern LT Rashawn Slater, which makes the offense a formidable unit on paper. Meanwhile, a full season from James would be a major boost to the defensive side of the ball.

2022 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 3 to officially pick up their options on 2018 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. In a change from years past, fifth-year option seasons are fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement, and specific performance metrics:

  • 2-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • 1-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

Updated 4-30-21, 4:24pm CT

  1. QB Baker Mayfield, Browns: Exercised ($18.858MM)
  2. RB Saquon Barkley, Giants: Exercised ($7.217MM)
  3. QB Sam Darnold, Panthers (via Jets): Pending ($18.858MM)
  4. CB Denzel Ward, Browns — Exercised ($13.294MM)
  5. LB Bradley Chubb, Broncos — Pending ($12.716MM)
  6. G Quenton Nelson, Colts — Pending ($13.754MM)
  7. QB Josh Allen, Bills: Pending ($23.106MM)
  8. LB Roquan Smith, Bears: Exercised ($9.735MM)
  9. OT Mike McGlinchey, 49ers: Exercised ($10.88MM)
  10. QB Josh Rosen, Cardinals: N/A
  11. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers (via Dolphins): Exercised ($10.612MM)
  12. DT Vita Vea, Buccaneers: Exercised ($7.638MM)
  13. DT Daron Payne, Washington — Exercised ($8.529MM)
  14. DE Marcus Davenport, Saints: Exercised ($9.553MM)
  15. OT Kolton Miller, Raiders — N/A (extension)
  16. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Bills: Pending ($12.716MM)
  17. S Derwin James, Chargers: Exercised ($9.052MM)
  18. CB Jaire Alexander, Packers: Exercised ($13.294MM)
  19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys: Pending ($9.145MM)
  20. C Frank Ragnow, Lions: Exercised ($12.657MM)
  21. C Billy Price, Bengals: Declined ($10.413MM)
  22. LB Rashaan Evans, Titans: Pending ($9.735MM)
  23. OT Isaiah Wynn, Patriots: Pending ($10.413 MM)
  24. WR D.J. Moore, Panthers: Exercised ($11.116MM)
  25. TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons (via Ravens): Pending ($5.428MM)
  26. WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons: Pending ($11.116MM)
  27. RB Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: Pending ($4.523MM)
  28. S Terrell Edmunds, Steelers: Pending ($6.753MM)
  29. DT Taven Bryan, Jaguars: Pending ($7.638MM)
  30. CB Mike Hughes, Vikings: Pending ($12.643MM)
  31. RB Sony Michel, Patriots: Pending ($4.523MM)
  32. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens: Exercised ($23.106MM)

NFL’s Fifth-Year Option Salaries For 2021

The NFL’s 2021 salary cap has been set at $182.5MM, marking the league’s first reduction in a decade. With that, the league has also ironed out the value of this year’s fifth-round option for 2018 first-round picks.

Here’s the full rundown, via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter):

1. Baker Mayfield, Browns, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

2. Saquon Barkley, Giants, RB — $7.217MM (1x Pro Bowl)

3. Sam Darnold, Jets, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

4. Denzel Ward, Browns, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

5. Bradley Chubb, Broncos, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

6. Quenton Nelson, Colts, G — $13.754MM (2x Pro Bowl)

7. Josh Allen, Bills, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

8. Roquan Smith, Bears, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

9. Mike McGlinchey, 49ers, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

10. Josh Rosen, Cardinals, QB*

11. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers, S (drafted by Dolphins) — $10.612MM (2x Pro Bowl)

12. Vita Vea, Buccaneers, DT — $7.638MM

13. Daron Payne, Washington, DT — $8.529MM (playing time)

14. Marcus Davenport, Saints, DE — $9.553MM

15. Kolton Miller, Raiders, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

16. Tremaine Edmunds, Bills, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

17. Derwin James, Chargers, S — $9.052MM (1x Pro Bowl)

18. Jaire Alexander, Packers, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

19. Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys, LB — $9.145MM

20. Frank Ragnow, Lions, C — $12.657MM (1x Pro Bowl)

21. Billy Price, Bengals, C — $10.413MM

22. Rashaan Evans, Titans, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

23. Isaiah Wynn, Patriots, OT — $10.413MM

24. D.J. Moore, Panthers, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

25. Hayden Hurst, Falcons, TE (Drafted by Ravens) — $5.428MM

26. Calvin Ridley, Falcons, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

27. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks, RB — $4.523MM

28., Steelers, S Terrell Edmunds — $6.753MM (playing time)

29. Taven Bryan, Jaguars, DT — $7.638MM

30. Mike Hughes, Vikings, CB — $12.643MM

31. Sony Michel, Patriots, RB — $4.523MM

32. Lamar Jackson, Ravens, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

* Rosen was released from his original contract and, therefore, is not option-eligible 

As a refresher, the fifth-year option year is now fully guaranteed. In the past, it was guaranteed for injury only. The values are also dependent on certain performance metrics:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.