Derwin James Gets Paid

Chargers S Derwin James
Chargers S Derwin James
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 2 - Derwin James is getting paid! The Chargers safety have agreed on a four-year, $76.4 million extension that makes him the highest-paid safety in NFL history. Includes $42 million guaranteed. After a couple years of dealing with injuries, James had a huge 2021 season. He ranked second among safeties with a 70% success rate in coverage and allowed just 4.5 yards per pass. He also had 20 defeats and ranked second among all NFL safeties in the percentage of team defensive plays where he had a tackle, assist, or PD. His run defense was pretty good too, with an average tackle after a gain of 6.2 yards, 26th among qualifying safeties.

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28 comments, Last at 22 Aug 2022, 8:58pm

#1 by Pat // Aug 17, 2022 - 11:05am

Assuming the full 5-year total is 85.45M, it's only trivially different from Minkah Fitzpatrick's (which is 84.224M, so a 1.4% bump). Plus of course Minkah Fitzpatrick isn't going to be crowing for a new contract from this, he was already $4M ahead of James from his rookie contract (meaning Fitzpatrick's still ahead of him on a total earnings basis).

Certainly not a "reset" of the safety market as the ESPN article's claiming. Not even really the highest paid safety - that's still Jamal Adams, who will make more than Fitzpatrick/James through 2026 assuming he doesn't retire and draws more than ~$5M on the market. Definitely looks like the safety market's settled at around $15M/yr flat cap (7.2%) after the big jumps in '21.

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#4 by theslothook // Aug 17, 2022 - 11:30am

For non quarterbacks, I think the guaranteed dollars are key. Most of the time, these players never see the backend of the contract. It's either renegotiated or they are cut.

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#7 by Pat // Aug 17, 2022 - 4:11pm

It just depends on the contract. None of these (well, assuming on James) have big back-end inflations or extend well past 30, so the teams would be totally happy with them if he's worth it.

Contract structure matters for *players* because of, well, the *actual* time value of money. For teams I don't think it's a big deal outside of QBs.

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#10 by theslothook // Aug 17, 2022 - 7:40pm

I don't think this is quite right. Teams hand out contracts partially to smooth out cap hits by year. Also, James could get hurt( like he has over his career), in which case the guarantees absolutely matter vs the straight dollar figures. I remember Kaeps contract being high in terms of total comp, but the effective guarantees were light. He was betting on himself and he lost badly on that score.

If contract data wasn't so damn proprietary, I'd be curious to see the probabilities of a freshly signed player actually getting to the final year of his contract. 

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#12 by Pat // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:01pm

I think we're looking at it from opposite perspectives: I think you're looking at it from the player's point of view, and I'm looking at it from the team's point of view. As in, how much does a team want to dedicate to a person playing at that position at that level. If James keeps playing at the level he's at and injuries aren't a concern, the team will happily pay out at least that contract value through '26. In that sense the guarantees don't matter to the team if he keeps playing at that level.

Fitzpatrick and James's contracts are basically identical from the team's perspective, with more up front for James and more likelihood that Fitzpatrick will see the whole contract. Total value wise they're both in the noise. It's a better deal from James's point of view because of the injury risk that James has, but realistically they're the same.

Fitzpatrick's deal is a bit more front-loaded than James's is, though, with James carrying 34.25M (unguaranteed) on the back 2 years and Fitzpatrick carrying 33.1M. Which, if you work it out, means that money through the first 3 years for the two of them is virtually the same, and I mean really really the same: Fitzpatrick makes 51.12M vs James's 51.335M, so fear that whole 0.4% increase. What a "reset."

And to note, I'm not even sure there actually even is a difference because there's goofiness due to the 5th year salary coming from a pre-17 game era, so I'm not actually even sure how that works out. That money's like "super-secret hidden" and so Fitzpatrick (who had a larger 5th year salary) might actually end up making exactly the same (or more) over the first 3 years.

Weird contracts (like Kaep's old one, or Richard Sherman's, etc., or ones with performance art like Hill or Davante Adams) do need to be looked at carefully in terms of guarantees, etc. but the Adams/Fitzpatrick/James contracts are just bog-standard, compare the 3-year money and total money. Adams is the one who definitely reset the market, Fitzpatrick and James didn't grow by cap growth.

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#2 by theslothook // Aug 17, 2022 - 11:13am

I like Derwin James and I like this signing.

That said, safety, a bit like non pass rushing outside linebacker is one of the trickiest positions to evaluate.

Safeties feel very context dependent. Ie - you need the overall defensive infrastructure to be there for them to shine. Send a safety to a team largely bereft of talent and I don't think they can do much. This isn't the case in the same way with middle linebackers who can clean up and run support to some extent or pass rushers or corners. Safeties are by definition meant to be that extra layer of defense. Happily, He's on a team with tremendous defensive infrastructure.


The other issue is, we don't have a great way of measuring safety play from a coverage point of view. Sure, someone like Jamal Adams gets a lot of stats by the nature of how he plays, but a safety's job is all about the plays thar are prevented and don't show up in the charting stats. Sure, I suppose we can look at deep shot percentage, but even that is very opponent and game context specific. 

I have in the past remarked about how volatile charting stats for cornerbacks are and I have no idea what to do with safeties. Strictly from a coverage standpoint, it took testimonials from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for me to fully believe the Ed Reed hype. And I took it as gospel from Seahawks fans that Earl Thomas was a god 

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#5 by KnotMe // Aug 17, 2022 - 2:29pm

To a degree that is true of all defenders since any defense is only as strong as it's weakest link. ( can usually negate one great player on a bad defense easily)

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#6 by theslothook // Aug 17, 2022 - 2:45pm

I have more confidence in other positions because their jobs are less context dependent than a safety.

I don't think anyone defender can raise a defense by himself, true. But It's easier for Aaron Donald to be Aaron Donald around terrible teammates than it is for an all-pro safety to be used to his full capacity surrounded by dreck

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#25 by bubqr // Aug 21, 2022 - 10:41am

Interesting because I feel like elite safeties are good regardless of the talent around them, while other positions (CBs, DEs) feel more context-dependent. What I've seen out of James put him into this rare category of players that will shine anyway, like Reed, Polamalu (bad examples considering the defenses they played in) or Bob Sanders, Brian Dawkins, Darren Sharper (ugh). Derwin James feels like an absolute sure thing, and would have gotten more if not for his durability issues.

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#26 by theslothook // Aug 21, 2022 - 4:32pm

My issue is we don't have many reliable metrics for judging safety play. A lot of it comes from counting stats that aren't reflective of them doing their job.

Pff does do coverage related statistics, but even those are measuring throws against them, not the throws that aren't attempted because what they are doing.


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#3 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 17, 2022 - 11:26am

Minkah surpassed in every regard a month later. 4m more practically guaranteed than the next highest, Adams.

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#8 by Pat // Aug 17, 2022 - 4:12pm

except total amount of money both will have at the end of the contracts.

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#9 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 17, 2022 - 7:01pm

What does that have to do with anything? That's not a thing at the negotiating table, who cares where they were drafted when they proved themselves?

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#13 by Pat // Aug 18, 2022 - 3:51pm

That's not a thing at the negotiating table,

Indirectly. The more money they have pre-extension, the less inclined they are to push harder at the extension negotiation: the goal isn't to be the highest-paid player at the moment, it's to earn the most money over your career. You're welcome to disagree, but there are enough examples in the NFL that I'm comfortable with the notion.

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#14 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 6:53pm

So why didn't Derwin want more? Honestly  pretty ridiculous. Being "the highest-paid player at the moment" literally helps "to earn the most money over your career"

Another obtuse point like thinking ABs career is shorter than Megatrons because games not started count for nothing

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#15 by Pat // Aug 19, 2022 - 8:49am

Being the highest paid player does. Trying to be doesn't necessarily.

James is not currently the highest paid safety in the league, and he's less likely to earn the full contract than Fitzpatrick.

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#16 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 19, 2022 - 8:57am

And not die on the literal dumbest hills.

They literally don't care about others career earnings, they just want to be paid now. You, of course, couldn't explain how Derwin DIDN'T ask for more, as if he was going to the table with "Adams and Minkah were drafted higher than me, I need to surpass that too!"

Absolute asinine 

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#17 by Pat // Aug 19, 2022 - 12:58pm


They literally don't care about others career earnings, they just want to be paid now.

I'm not talking about it from the player's point of view, I'm talking about it from the team's point of view.

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#18 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 19, 2022 - 1:21pm

Because you were drafted ahead of this other guy!"

Incoherent retorts. 

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#19 by Pat // Aug 19, 2022 - 1:31pm

See above re: total amounts vs extension amounts.

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#20 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 19, 2022 - 2:21pm

But you just had to argue some random point about a team not wanting to make give someone the most career earnings based on literally nothing.

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#21 by Pat // Aug 19, 2022 - 2:54pm

Again read above comment regarding 3-year totals. The only way three-year totals match is if the lower-drafted player gets paid more in new money because the final year salary was determined by draft position. 3-year totals tend to be closer together than "new money" amounts.

Adams's contract has similar 3-year totals as well depending on what you use for NFL inflation. As does Simmons ("merging" the franchise tag and new contract) so I guess I should actually say that Simmons reset the market. 

Simmons, Adams, Fitzpatrick, and James have "new money" totals of 61M, 70M, 73M, 76M, which is a 20% range in total, but the 3-year totals vary by less than 2%. In other words, there's an inverse correlation between 5th year money and new money total. More 5th year money, less total new money. Take from that what you will.

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#22 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 19, 2022 - 6:46pm

You're making a convoluted argument for the sake of arguing. I said that Derwins contract surpassed Minkahs. I'm not wrong but you randomly bring up career earnings...from the teams perspective. Just nonsense.

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#23 by Pat // Aug 19, 2022 - 6:59pm

Again, as always, you're welcome to your opinion. I do not agree. The difference is I respect other opinions and you do not.

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#24 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 21, 2022 - 9:05am

You're just arguing against facts just to argue! This is your default response when proven wrong. It's not an opinion that AB had a longer career. It's not an opinion that this contract surpassed Minkahs. No cares about career earnings when we're talking about the extension

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#27 by Pat // Aug 22, 2022 - 11:33am

 It's not an opinion that this contract surpassed Minkahs. 

Yes, it is. It is a fact that the total amount of the new money of this contract surpassed Minkah's. However it is not a fact that Derwin James's contract "surpassed [Minkah's] in every regard." It only surpasses them in the ways you choose to look at them, and your metrics are not the only ones that people care about.

Again: the 3-year money on both Fitzpatrick and James's contracts are virtually identical (within 0.4%), Fitzpatrick is more likely to see the final years due to the structure, and Fitzpatrick was already ahead to begin. So how much he "values" the 0.4% difference in 3-year money is arguable.

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#28 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 22, 2022 - 8:58pm

Arguing just to argue. Only a weirdo would twist it into some arbitrary measure of x amount of years and "more likely"

Beyond annoying.

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