The Los Angeles Chargers now know Justin Herbert is locked away for good. They also know he’s officially the richest quarterback in the NFL — signing a blockbuster five-year, $262.5 million contract extension first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and the network’s Chargers Insider Lindsey Thiry on Tuesday.
But now comes this: If the Chargers know this is a move they won’t regret moving forward and if they know the deal came at the right time.
Was This the Right Move on the Los Angeles Chargers’ End?
When a team has someone who has thrown for more than 14,000 passing yards already in his career, has nearly matched NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino in one category, and finally, has guided the Chargers to 9-10 regular-season wins the past two years, this move becomes a no-brainer on the Bolts’ end.
Herbert is already the owner of one NFL record among quarterbacks through three seasons in the league while also nearing a record owned by the Miami Dolphins legend Marino.
Through three seasons, Justin Herbert has:⁰🏈14,089 passing yards, most through player’s first three seasons in NFL history.⁰🏈94 pass TDs, second-most through first 3 seasons in NFL history (Dan Marino – 98).⁰🏈64 Total QBR, fourth-best in NFL since his rookie season in 2020.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 25, 2023
Since his arrival to the Chargers as the sixth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, Herbert didn’t take long to establish himself as a pillar of the franchise — especially in the post-Philip Rivers realm for the Bolts. And his head coach Brandon Staley ends up staying true to his word that Herbert is the guy for the long term.
“I’m confident that Justin Herbert is going to be our quarterback for a long time and that we’ll make sure that we get a great deal done,” Staley said during league meetings back in March.
QB Market Resets Courtesy of Chargers/Justin Herbert
Just when it looked like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson were the ones resetting the market, along comes Herbert.
Now, Herbert gets $33 million more than the Baltimore Ravens’ star in guaranteed money. The Chargers’ QB additionally will earn nearly $40 million more than the guaranteed cash the Philadelphia Eagles handed Hurts with their $255 million extension (Hurts has $179 million guaranteed).
Still to come? Cincinnati Bengals two-time Pro Bowler and 2021 AFC champion Joe Burrow with his pending deal. Now, Cincy will have to find a way to top what the Chargers are giving Burrow’s fellow 2020 draft classmate.
Yet, with Herbert now earning $52.5 million annually and receiving $218 million guaranteed, this now raises the next burning question. Can they pay and keep Herbert’s weapons together?
One Playmaker Already Facing High Probability of Leaving in 2024
Potentially, Herbert’s deal comes at this expense: Austin Ekeler and the team not reaching an extension this offseason.
The versatile running back, who caught 107 of Herbert’s passes to lead the Chargers in 2022, is already facing the high probability that this season will be his last with the team. By not reaching a new deal, Ekeler can become an unrestricted free agent for 2024.
His status was a part of the widely debated topic among running backs’ contract futures during the week of July 17 — with the added report of Ekeler forming a private line of communication among other league backs to discuss the financial dilemma of the position.
But it’s not just Ekeler who’s facing the sunset of his Chargers career. The longtime face of the WR unit, Keenan Allen, is nearing the end of his four-year, $80 million deal and can be eligible for a potential opt-out for 2024. Even Mike Williams has a similar 2024 option on his current three-year, $60 million deal.
Given the drafting of Quentin Johnston in the first round of the 2023 draft, perhaps it’s the TCU star who eventually gets groomed as WR1 immediately for Herbert.
With what they’re now paying Herbert, the Chargers may have to build through the draft beginning in 2024 to find the eventual successor to Ekeler while also adding more targets for the QB.
Still, by locking in Herbert on the eve of training camp, Los Angeles made a pivotal move to ensure they won’t have to worry about the QB position for a long time. And it now means Herbert can build his rapport with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore in Costa Mesa, who previously coached a past Pro Bowler in Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys.
However, the move additionally resets the QB market once more — and puts the Chargers in a growing future skills position reset to build around Herbert for the next five years.
It’s an aggressive “all-in” tactic on the Bolts’ end. But along with his new yearly salary, the expectations to produce more postseason and division title runs just increased for Herbert and the Chargers.
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