It’s safety first for rehabbing Derwin James at practice but not for a new contract

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. carries the ball during practice. He is currently playing on the final year of his rookie contract. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Chargers paused their football business Wednesday with the conclusion of their two-day mandatory minicamp.

Yet, the business of football will continue for the team with the possibility of a contact extension this summer for safety Derwin James Jr.

Entering his fifth season, James is set to make slightly more than $9 million on the option year of his rookie deal. His representatives and the Chargers are believed to have begun negotiations.

James, who turns 26 in early August, is coming off a season in which he made his second Pro Bowl and firmly established himself as the key piece of head coach Brandon Staley’s defense.

He is the Chargers’ signal-caller and widely acknowledged leader — both physically and emotionally.

James possesses the versatility to play all over the field, from lining up deep to coming off the edge as a pass rusher — and nearly everything in between.

“We feel like the way he plays, where he plays … he’s in the middle of the defense,” Staley said last month. “He never leaves the field. We think that that’s important. We think that can be an advantage.”

The Chargers are now off before reconvening in late July for the start of training camp in Costa Mesa.

The extension market for safeties was reset Wednesday when Pittsburgh agreed to terms with Minkah Fitzpatrick on a deal that added four years and up to $73.6 million — with $36 million guaranteed — to his rookie contract.

The $18.4-million annual average is the highest in league history for the position, eclipsing the $17.5-million mark of Seattle’s Jamal Adams.

In the 2018 draft, Miami selected Fitzpatrick 11th overall, six spots before the Chargers picked James. The Dolphins traded Fitzpatrick to the Steelers in September 2019.

Chargers free safety Derwin James (3) warms up before practice in Costa Mesa. He…


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