Justin Herbert-Chargers extension makes QB highest paid in NFL

After months of speculation, the Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert agreed on a contract extension.

The five-year deal is worth up to $262.5 million, making Herbert the highest-paid player in the NFL based on average annual value.

Since the end of last season, the Chargers and Herbert made it clear that both sides were interested in an extension. The parameters of the rising quarterback market continued to be set this offseason, first with Philadelphia re-signing Jalen Hurts and then Baltimore extending Lamar Jackson.

The Chargers drafted Herbert sixth overall in 2020, one spot after Miami took Tua Tagovailoa. Herbert was the third quarterback selected, with Cincinnati drafting Joe Burrow at No. 1.

Coming out of Oregon, Herbert had talent and potential that were widely recognized. But there was concern among some NFL observers about his ability to lead a team and also his on-field anticipation.

Herbert arrived as the acknowledged backup to veteran Tyrod Taylor, who dominated the first-team reps in training camp and started the Chargers’ opener that season in Cincinnati.

But the next week, while receiving a pregame injection to manage pain for a rib injury, Taylor suffered a punctured lung and was taken to a hospital near SoFi Stadium. Herbert was forced into the starting lineup and led the Chargers on an eight-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to open the game against Kansas City. He capped the possession by scoring on a four-yard run.

Outplaying Patrick Mahomes for the majority of the afternoon, Herbert had the Chargers in position to win late before the Chiefs rallied to win in overtime. Herbert finished 22 of 33 for 311 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.

Over the next several weeks, as Taylor continued to heal and work his way back, Herbert’s play remained at a high enough level that then-coach Anthony Lynn had little choice but to stick with the rookie as his starter.

 Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert heads to the locker room.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert heads to the locker room after an AFC playoff loss in Jacksonville to end last season.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Beginning that day, Herbert has started the Chargers’ last 50 games, including an AFC wild-card playoff loss in Jacksonville last season. He has led the team to back-to-back winning seasons, the Chargers 25-25 when Herbert starts.

After quickly establishing himself as one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, Herbert made the decision regarding a long-term deal an easy call entering this offseason, the first in which he could be extended.

No quarterback in his first three seasons has completed more passes than Herbert’s 1,316. He also ranks among the top six in passing yards and touchdown passes since entering the league.

Herbert was named to the Pro Bowl in his second season after being selected as the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2020.

With Herbert’s emergence, the Chargers have used their last three first-round picks on players to bolster the offense around him — linemen Rashawn Slater and Zion Johnson and wide receiver Quentin Johnston.

In January, the Chargers parted ways with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. They were replaced by Kellen Moore and Doug Nussmeier, both of whom had been with Dallas.