DeVonta Smith extension hands Chargers the perfect blueprint for Justin Herbert

There are a few lessons here that LA would be wise to learn.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

On Monday, the Eagles handed DeVonta Smith a contract extension. The deal, worth three years and $75 million ($51 million of which is guaranteed), assures that Smith will stay in Philly for the foreseeable future, while also keeping one of the premier wide receiver duos in football together during this current Super Bowl window that the Eagles are in.

And while team-building comparisons are never quite apples-to-apples, the Chargers would be smart to look at what's happening in Philadelphia – both with Monday's extension and otherwise – and take notes. Because the Eagles are giving a lot of teams, LA included, the blueprint for how to build a contender.

Smith extension hands Chargers the perfect blueprint for Justin Herbert

Unfortunately, the days of being able to endlessly build around Herbert are over. There have been a ton of words already written about how the team squandered those precious years when he was on a rookie contract, so we'll spare you that part. In 2024, Herbert's cap hit will be up at around $19 million, which isn't awful, but is more than double his 2023 cap hit. Then things get weird. That number goes up to $37 million in 2025, and balloons up to *$71 million* by 2028. There are, of course, avenues for the Chargers to work around that number, but there's no denying how heavy Herbert's contract will weight on LA's cap situation through the rest of the decade.

It's why, now more than ever, the Chargers need to hit on their draft picks. They have more than a couple roster holes where that (admittedly very generic) bit of draft analysis could apply, but there's a good argument to be made that none are more important to their immediate future than wide receiver.

As things currently stand, Herbert will spend 2024 throwing to Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, and some combo of Donald Parham Jr./Hayden Hurst. Even for a QB of his caliber, that's asking a lot of Herbert (and, frankly, of Jim Harbaugh). And even if the Chargers could afford to go out and spend lavishly on free agent wideouts next offseason – which, according to Over The Cap, they will – there are probably too many positions that need an upgrade to justify spending a major chunk of their currently-predicted $75 million on Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, or Tee Higgins.

So, given their needs and the money they'll have to address them, taking multiple early swings at wide receiver makes a ton of sense. Trading off the 5th overall pick has been a popular projection in most of the Chargers mock drafts this year, but it'd be hard to blame them for staying put if the board falls like many think it will; realistically, they'll be able to pick between two of the three best reciever prospects in this year's class, which is considered one of the strongest (and top-heavy) classes in a while. Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, Rome Adunze, and Brian Thomas Jr. would all come into LA and immediately be the Chargers' undisputed WR1, something that Herbert desperately needs now that Keenan Allen is gone.

So yeah, the Chargers could trade down, accumulate a bunch of low Top-100 picks, and more-slowly build their team the way that Harbaugh envisions them. But the Eagles' Smith extension proves, among other things, that there's still value in taking a swing from your slot, even if there's not one single obvious fit. The Chargers will go as Herbert goes, and that's probably going to be a lot farther if his best receiver has more than 430 receiving yards in a season.