Los Angeles Chargers Sign Quarterback to Record-Breaking Extension

At least for now, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is the highest-paid player in NFL history. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Chargers signed the one-time Pro Bowler to a massive five-year, $262.5 million extension that will keep him with the team through the 2029 season. Herbert's colossal $52.5 million annually in new money narrowly edges out Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson for the most in the league. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts ($51 million), New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($50.27 million), and Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson ($49 million) round out the remainder of the top five.

Herbert sports ideal size and arm strength, and his 14089 passing yards are the most in NFL history for any player through their first three seasons. That production, however, is in part due to the overall inflation of passing numbers league-wide.

Herbert's eye-popping individual statistics have not correlated to similarly exceptional team success. Despite playing with one of the league's most expensive receiving corps (Keenan Allen and Michael Williams each earn $20+ million per year) and one of the league's pass-friendliest running backs (Austin Ekeler has totalled 231 receptions for 1772 yards since 2020, the most of any running back over that span), the Chargers have only managed a single top-10 scoring offense since drafting Herbert and have failed to win a playoff game.

Herbert is an unbelievably tantalizing, prototypical quarterback, but his effectiveness in the league so far is wildly overstated. He has real, distinct flaws. Despite his reputation as a powerful downfield thrower, he is consistently one of the more timid passers in the league: his 6.4 intended air yards per pass attempt were 31st among qualifying quarterbacks in 2022. He also fell on his face in his one-and-only playoff appearance, averaging 5.5 net yards per passing attempt and surrendering a 27-0 lead despite a +5 turnover ratio to a lowly 9-8 Jacksonville Jaguars squad. 

That all being said, Herbert's elevated status in the league has far more to do with his tools and his perceived potential than his accomplishments so far. But the reality is, the Chargers are 25-24 with him as their starter, and they'll likely struggle to improve the talent surrounding him now that he isn't on a bargain-rate contract. Unless he drastically improves, or the team drastically improves their roster despite their diminished cap resources, the Chargers will struggle mightily to climb their way out of the mediocrity that has defined their franchise since the departure of longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.

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