Derwin James is one of the best safeties in the entire NFL, there is no debate there. The LA Chargers are simply different when James is on the field as he is the quarterback of the defense. His versatility and leadership make him one of the most important players to his team in the entire league.
With that in mind, it seems like a no-brainer that the Chargers should be pounding the table to quickly sign a contract extension with James, who will be a free agent after this season. James is playing under his fifth-year rookie option in 2022.
While every Chargers fan undoubtedly wants to hear the news that the two sides agreed to an extension, the Bolts are right to be patient with this situation. Obviously, the team does not want to let it get to free agency in 2023 but Tom Telesco does not need to be scrambling to get a deal done as soon as physically possible.
The Chargers have to weigh the risks of extending Derwin James
Don't get me wrong, if it was up to me I would sign off on a Derwin James extension right away. However, I am not in Telesco's shoes and have to weigh all the risks and rewards of every decision, both big and small.
There would be an inherent risk in signing James to an extension before he steps on the field in the 2022 season. While the 2021 season was extremely promising and a step in the right direction, James is still someone with a concerning injury past.
He had injuries in college and he has had injuries in the league. James missed all of the 2020 season and nearly all of the 2019 season and obviously was not himself when he did play. In 2021 he even got banged up, missing some time and not playing at his best at times.
Injuries are almost unavoidable in the NFL and expecting James to play all 17 games every season is silly. However, with that injury history in the not-so-distant past, it is totally fine to be patient.
Trying to work out an extension during the season is not always the best approach but it is not impossible. Plus, the Chargers would have time to extend Derwin before free agency began next year as well. Sure, you run the risk of upsetting your star player but it is highly unlikely that it would upset him enough to outright leave the team, especially if the Chargers are offering him premium money for a safety.
There is no denying how impactful and talented Derwin James is but there is also no issue with the Chargers taking a patient approach and letting the situation unfold.