At some point, the LA Chargers are going to have to PAY Derwin James.
The LA Chargers just did beautiful business with defensive end Joey Bosa and gave him the most guaranteed money ever for a defensive player as well as the highest average annual salary for any defensive player in NFL history.
Now, the team’s focus shifts to Keenan Allen, who is a free agent after the 2020 season. Nothing has been worked out this far into camp and it, unfortunately, feels like we are going to have to wait until next offseason for Allen to get a new contract.
He absolutely deserves it and should be re-signed at all costs but there is always the concern that the Chargers will fumble the contract negotiations and Allen will sign elsewhere.
There is another player on the roster that will eventually get a big payday and no, we are not talking about Justin Herbert. All-Pro safety Derwin James still has two more years (and then a fifth-year, first-round option) with the Bolts before he will get a new contract.
And when he does get a new contract it is going to be a hefty one. If he continues the level of play that he has already exhibited then he is going to be the best safety in the league.
It might be hard to gauge just how much James will make four years from now, but we may have gotten our first indication on Tuesday. The Arizona Cardinals made Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in league history, extending him to a four-year, $59 million extension. Now we have a building block.
Derwin James’ likely cost after Budda Baker extension:
There are still several other safeties that will get contract in-between now and then that will help establish the market, but Baker’s extension helps us project the future.
Baker is a really solid safety that was an All-Pro in his rookie season like James and returned to the Pro Bowl last season. I still would not say that he is on the same level as Derwin James, though. The team had to extend him now, as he is in the last year of his rookie deal as he was a second-round pick.
Now, by the time the Chargers have to pay James, the salary cap should be in a similar, if not better, position. The COVID-19 pandemic is going to lower the salary cap because of a loss of revenue but it is going to be a rolling average and by then things will at least be what they are now, if not more.
So what is the magic number? Do the LA Chargers agree to a four-year or five-year deal? How much more does he make than Baker? Will this hurt re-signing Justin Herbert?
If James continues his level of play and makes the natural progressions that he should then a five-year, $100 million contract is absolutely feasible. One extra year than Baker, $5.25 million more per year. It is an insane contract for a safety but James legitimately will be the best safety in the league if he makes those progressions.
This should not affect re-signing Justin Herbert, either. First, Herbert has to prove that he is even worthy of being re-signed. The big contract of Bosa and Herbert’s first year with his new contract will overlap and the Chargers can manage that down the road.
We do not know what Allen’s deal is going to look like, and outside of Allen, Bosa and Derwin, no players are going to have huge contracts on the Bolts in five years.
Melvin Ingram will be retired, the secondary will look completely new, Mike Williams will either be with the team on a cheaper deal or on another team. The three constants, and the three pieces the Chargers have to build the franchise around, are Bosa, Allen and James.
And because of that, Derwin James is going to get a really hefty payday from the LA Chargers in the future.