Chargers Free Agency

Adrian Phillips deserves pay raise after covering for Derwin James

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive back Adrian Phillips #31 and free safety Derwin James #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate a missed field goal by the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive back Adrian Phillips #31 and free safety Derwin James #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate a missed field goal by the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Adrian Phillips represents one of the Chargers’ best value contracts, but should get a significant raise if he excels while covering for Derwin James.

Adrian Phillips is set to make just two million dollars this year while with the Chargers, a result of teams around the NFL not finding a way to appropriately value a linebacker/safety who received All-Pro honors as a special teams player. Though he plays a significant role on special teams, it appears as if Anthony Lynn is going to let him focus on playing more than half the season as the team’s starting strong safety.

Here’s why he’s being promoted: All-Pro strong safety and defensive back Derwin James is set to miss three to four months dealing with a foot injury.

So here’s what the Chargers get in Phillips, his temporary replacement:

  • Appeared in 45 out of 48 possible games over the last three seasons
  • 94 combined tackles in 2018
  • Nine passes defended last season
  • Linebacker/safety hybrid who helped limit both James Conner and Tyreek Hill in prime time games

That last bit is important, though it’s not like Phillips did it by himself. Still, he brings a unique skill set to a defense with an emphasis on multi-talented players at linebacker and defensive back.

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Should he play well and do an incredible on-field impersonation of James, Phillips should garner a significant pay raise in 2020. Here are some safeties who make more annually than Phillips: Jordan Lucas, Cody Davis, and Jarrod Wilson. Those three had 31 fewer combined tackles in 2018 than Phillips did. If No. 31 looks and plays anything like his 2018 self, the Chargers will have more than just Joey Bosa and Philip Rivers to extend to a better deal.

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