The LA Chargers struck gold with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After getting Hall of Fame-level quarterback play from Philip Rivers for so long, the Chargers somehow managed to replace him with another elite quarterback, Justin Herbert.
Herbert has taken the NFL world by storm and has broken just about every record there is to break for a quarterback through three seasons. While he has not had playoff success quite yet, he undoubtedly is good enough for the Chargers to go on a Super Bowl run.
Now Herbert is one of several quarterbacks that can sign a contract extension this offseason. Herbert, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts are all set to get big paydays and it benefits their respective teams to get a deal done sooner rather than later so they can set the market.
What exactly what market is going to be is hard to gauge. The Deshaun Watson contract really convoluted things and we are seeing that right now with Lamar Jackson's inability to get what he views as market value.
Justin Herbert contract projection with Chargers:
There are several different routes that the Chargers and Justin Herbert could go. The Chargers are going to want to lock Herbert up long-term like the Chiefs did Patrick Mahomes. That typically favors the team towards the back of the deal as the market increases while the contract does not.
However, Herbert's side is going to push for a shorter extension that still gets him paid but allows him to hit the market a second time while he is still in his prime earning window. That is the best way to maximize his career earnings.
Herbert just turned 25 and it would not be crazy if the Chargers signed him to a 10+ year deal that pays him over $500 million. However, it seems more likely that he will get something similar in length as Watson and Kyler Murray's contracts.
Justin Herbert contract projection: six years, $310 million (up to $325 million with incentives), $215 million guaranteed
This contract would pay Herbert an average annual salary (AAV) of $51.67 million, which would give him the highest AAV in NFL history (the record is currently $50.2 million for Aaron Rodgers). With incentives, Herbert's deal could climb to $325 million, which is a $54.17 million AAV.
Herbert's $215 million guaranteed in this situation would give him the second-highest guarantee of any player in NFL history. Only Watson has gotten more guaranteed money as his entire $230 million deal was guaranteed.
Owners definitely do not want to move to a market where every QB deal is fully guaranteed. However, the fact of the matter is that the new market includes far more guaranteed money than in the past. Murray's five-year extension gives him $160 million guaranteed on a $230.5 million contract. Russell Wilson's $245 million extension pays him $165 million guaranteed.
Wilson's guarantee is 67.3% of his total contract, Murray's is 67.9%. Herbert's agents will want to follow that status quo, giving him a guarantee that is 69.3% of his overall salary.
A six-year extension off of his rookie contract would give Herbert a chance to work out another mega deal after the 2029 season. At that point, Herbert will be 31 years old and could likely sign another six-year deal that pays him an even higher AAV.