The Chargers remain in lengthy contract extension talks with Derwin James Jr., one of their defensive stars.
After missing a 14th straight training camp on Tuesday, James’ head coach offered the two-time Pro Bowl player a glowing endorsement and perhaps a glimpse into the negotiations.
“I don’t look at Durwin as security,” Brandon Staley said. “I consider Durwin to be an impact player. If you were just looking at him as security, it wouldn’t do Durwin justice. For me, I see him as a defender.”
Staley then went into detail, explaining that in the Chargers’ dime package, James can play either safety position, outside cornerback, slot corner, or linebacker.
He also noted that James can rush the quarterback as a blitzer and affect the game in either zone or man-to-man coverage.
“and He’s our signal caller and the heartbeat of our defense,” added Staley.
This kind of broad versatility and responsibility might be one of the reasons James remains a non-participant at practice while still being present at walkthroughs and team meetings.
To negotiate on behalf of James is to negotiate for a player who is redefining his position in a very clear way.
Among NFL securities, Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick has the highest median annual salary at $18.2 million and Seattle’s Jamal Adams has the highest guaranteed money at $38 million.
But when cornerbacks are added, the numbers swell. Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander makes an average of $21 million a year, while Cleveland’s Denzel Ward has a total of $71.25 million in guarantees.
Somewhere in the midst of all those numbers, James and the Chargers are still looking for a fix.
“If you just looked at him as a security guy, you wouldn’t see him the way he does as a defender,” Staley said. “He has the rare combination of all of those factors plus the intangibles of influencing the defense and the team with every snap.”
The Chargers will practice with Dallas in Costa Mesa on Wednesday and Thursday before the teams face off in a preseason game at SoFi Stadium on Saturday night.
After that, the Chargers have another week of training camp, culminating in their season finale on Aug. 26 in New Orleans.
So it seems the clock is starting to tick just a tad louder when it comes to ensuring James has enough time to prepare for the start of the season.
However, Staley downplayed such concerns, citing a very specific example from his past.
On September 1, 2018, Staley was Chicago’s outside linebackers coach when the Bears traded for Khalil Mack. Eight days later, Mack had a sack, conceded and recovered from a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown on his debut with the team.
Mack then had the third of his three All-Pro seasons.
“When we traded for Khalil in Chicago, Khalil wasn’t having an offseason,” Staley said. “He didn’t have a training camp. He showed up a week before the first game and had the game of his life…
“If you know people like Durwin and Khalil, they will be ready. And no matter when that happens, Durwin will be ready. And we can’t wait for that time to come.”
One difference in these cases is the health history of the player in question. As of early 2018, Mack had not missed a game in his first four NFL seasons. Limited to five games in 2019, James missed all of 2020 through injury.
Despite this, Staley said he had no worries about James and his health if he returned.
“Durwin gives us no reason to worry about how he’s doing on a day-to-day basis,” Staley said. “We see him every day. It would be one thing if he wasn’t here. But we see him every day. He’s in the best shape of his life. … It feels great. That gives us a lot of self-confidence.”
The Chargers practiced just over 90 minutes Tuesday in preparation for their joint sessions with the Cowboys. Some observations:
– Veteran Michael Davis continued to work with the first-team defense against Asante Samuel Jr. at the outside cornerback point opposite JC Jackson.
“We feel like both corners are starting caliber,” said Staley. “…This is good for our football team. We wanted it to be an open competition. It has been. It will continue to be so. These guys are both playing well for us.”
– Davis intercepted a pass thrown to the left by Justin Herbert, intended for DeAndre Carter in an 11-on-11.
– Mack had an active day, breaking up a handful of runs and catching Herbert at least once on a play that would have ended in a sack in live conditions.
— Tre’ McKitty sophomore had two lost passports.
– Herbert had a muted snap, failing to complete a pass in four attempts during the 11-on-11 two-minute stretch in desperate circumstances.
– Chase Daniel hit Carter for a 75-yard touchdown in the two-minute practice as the secondary’s No. 1 defense had a significant breakdown.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-08-16/derwin-james-contract-talks-continue-chargers-coach-brandon-staley-endorsement Chargers coach praises Derwin James as contract talks continue