clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chargers 90-in-90: S Derwin James

Derwin James will look to string another season onto his growing resume of elite pefrormances for the Chargers over the past two years.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Derwin James was born in the Florida town of Haines City. He began his prep football career at nearby Auburndale High School but ultimately transferred to his hometown school, Haines High School, partway through.

In true James fashion, he was ranked as a five-star recruit by and the top safety in his entire class. Following in the footsteps of all the past defensive backs who made a name for themselves at Florida State, James chose to continue his football career as a member of the Seminoles. The Noles offered James a scholarship when he was just a freshman in high school and it’s hard not to think that early investment in him paid off in the end.

As a true freshman in 2015, James began the year as a backup but quickly worked his way into a starting role. With the pedigree he entered Florida State with, it’s hard to imagine him coming off the bench for long. In 12 games, James notched 91 tackles (a number that stood as his career high) to go with 4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Just two games into his sophomore season, James was forced to undergo surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear and cartilage damage. His second season for the Seminoles was cut short but not after he recorded 11 tackles and one interception.

James burst back onto the national scene with a junior season that reasserted him atop the hierarchy of collegiate defensive backs. He started 12 games and recorded 84 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and a career-high 11 pass breakups. After two First-Team All-ACC selections and a First-Team All-American honor in 2017, James chose to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

At the NFL combine, James ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash while jumping 40” in the vertical and 11’ in the broad. He also repped 225 pounds 21 times, a solid number for a defensive back on the bench press.

With the 17th-overall pick in 2018, the Chargers selected James after he fell slightly due to his aforementioned injuries. Luckily, those 17 teams didn’t know any better as the Bolts landed arguably a top-three player in the entire class.

James’ rookie season went about as well as you could imagine for a first-year player. In 16 starts, he set the franchise record for tackles by a rookie with 105. He also added four tackles for loss, three sacks, three interceptions, and a whopping 13 pass breakups. He was named a First-Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler, but fell just short of taking home the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honor.

Tragedy struck again on the injury front for James just five games into his sophomore campaign. After picking off a pass in practice, James later learned he suffered a stress fracture on the same play that required surgery and roughly three months of recovery time. He’d end up returning for the final five games of the regular season in what ended up being a 5-11 campaign for the Chargers. He recorded 34 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a lone pass breakup.

The bad beats just kept coming for James as he suffered a torn meniscus in the 2020 offseason that would keep him from ever suiting up for the Bolts that year. He was placed on season-ending IR on September 5th.

In 2021, James came roaring back like he never left. He started 15 games in his first season back from a major injury and recorded a career-high 118 tackles and seven tackles for loss. He also added a pair of sacks, his first two interceptions since his rookie season, five pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. He ended up finishing third for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year honor and was named to his second Pro Bowl.

Just ahead of the 2022 season, James signed a four-year, $76.4 million contract extension with the Chargers. The deal made James the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The season to come was more of the same that we have come to expect from James. He made plays all over the field for another year, posting 115 tackles, five tackles for loss, a career-high four sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. He was once again named to the Pro Bowl.

He was named as one of nine captains for the Chargers ahead of the 2023 season.

Basic Info

Height: 6’2
Weight: 215
College: Florida State
Experience: 5
Years with team: 5

Contract Status

“Derwin James signed a 4 year, $76,532,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a $20,532,000 signing bonus, $42,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $19,133,000. In 2023, James will earn a base salary of $2,000,000 and a signing bonus of $12,000,000, while carrying a cap hit of $9,106,400 and a dead cap value of $33,841,129.” -

The Good

James is the epitome of a do-it-all defensive player in the NFL. He lines up essentially at every position each week except for defensive tackle. But I mean, if we’re being honest, he’d probably make some crazy plays from that spot if given chance, too.

Since joining the Chargers — and when healthy — James is arguably the most-consistent defender for the Chargers from both a playmaking and production standpoint. Every year you can bet on him to either lead the team in tackles for finish as a close second. Whether it’s sacks or interceptions, it’s also likely he ends near the top of the team, as well.

The Bad

There truly isn’t a ton of negatives to note on in regards to James’ game. The injuries were the biggest issue but he seems to have put those behind him after starting 29 games over the past two seasons, including one he missed due to a suspension from a dangerous his on a Colts receiver in 2022.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2023?

James is one of the Chargers’ biggest stars and was recently named one of the team’s nine permanent captains for the season. He will pair with superstars at all three levels of the defense in hopes of finally having his side of the ball meet the high expectations that came with Brandon Staley becoming their head coach.