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The truth of Justin Herbert’s deal: Seven years, $42.3 million per year

On the surface, it’s a five-year, $262.5 million extension for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. It makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history, at $52.5 million per year.

But there’s an old trick that has been used to inflate the perception of the deal. New money.

Herbert actually signed a seven-year deal, with the $262.5 million added to what he was due to make over the next two years: $4.234 million in 2023 and $29.5 million in 2024. That’s $33.734 million in so-called old money.

Added to the $262.5 million in new money, Herbert has a seven-year, $296.234 million contract. That’s an average of $42.3 million per year.

While hardly peanuts, it’s a far cry from $52.5 million. And it’s important when comparing Herbert’s deal to the one signed by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. He gets a straight, five-year, $260 million deal, worth a true $52 million per year.

Some would say it’s irrelevant, because Jackson had to play out of his rookie contract before he got paid. But if Herbert had done the same, he surely would have gotten more than $52.5 million per year on a five-year deal signed in 2025.

The broader truth continues to be that “extensions” aren’t really extensions. They don’t kick in when the current deal ends. The prior deal is torn up, and a new deal takes its place. For Herbert, it’s a seven-year, $296.234 million contract.

With it, Herbert got financial security now in exchange for a lower APY than he would have gotten in two years. Along the way, however, he would have carried the risk of injury or sudden ineffectiveness, like Jackson did in 2021 and 2022.