Justin Herbert’s contract details, salary cap impact, and bonuses

What is Justin Herbert's contract, how do his salary cap numbers shape up for the Chargers, and when can he sign a contract extension?

Justin Herbert is still playing on his rookie contract, ensuring that his salary remains cost-controlled for a little bit longer. Let’s examine Herbert’s current contract, his impact on the Chargers’ salary cap, and when an extension is possible for the young QB.

Justin Herbert’s contract details and bonuses

After Herbert was selected sixth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, he signed a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. As part of that, Herbert received a $16.9 million signing bonus. The remaining $9.7 million is spread between his base salary and three roster bonuses. Those bonuses started in 2021 and will also be paid out at the start of the league year in 2022 and 2023. All of this money is guaranteed in the first four years.

Herbert’s contract also came with the option of a fifth year for the Chargers. After his third season (2022), the Chargers will have the opportunity to decide whether to pick up that option. The value of it will depend on which tier Herbert falls into after the 2022 season. If the Chargers decide to pick up the fifth-year option, that is also guaranteed. The four tiers for fifth-year option value are as follows:

  • Multiple Pro Bowls
  • One Pro Bowl
  • Playtime:
    • 75% or more in two of the first three years
    • An average of 75% across the first three years
    • 50% or more in all three seasons
  • Basic: Does not qualify for any of the above

Herbert’s selection to the Pro Bowl after the 2021 season ensures he will be in at least tier two in terms of value. That means Herbert will be paid at least the amount of the transition tag. If Herbert is selected to the Pro Bowl again next season, then he will jump into the top tier. That would mean Herbert would be set to earn the value of the franchise tag in the 2023 offseason on his fifth-year option.

How much does Herbert’s contract impact the salary cap?

Herbert’s contract number is made up of a combination of his prorated signing bonus, his salary, and his roster bonus. The signing bonus is prorated at $4.2 million per year across the four years of the deal. He then earned $610,000 in base salary in 2020 and $780,000 in 2021. There was also a $1.04 million roster bonus in 2021. Therefore, his cap numbers in the first two years were $4.8 million and $6.04 million, respectively.

Herbert’s cap numbers do not massively increase in 2022 and 2023. Next season, he will earn $895,000 in salary, with a $2.1 million roster bonus. That will give Herbert a $7.2 million cap number for the Chargers in 2022. That will rise to $8.5 million in 2023 — thanks to a $1.01 million salary and a $3.2 million roster bonus.

When can the Chargers extend Herbert?

The Collective Bargaining Agreement sets out that a player on their rookie contract cannot be signed to an extension until after their third season. The 2021 season was the second year for Herbert, meaning that he will be eligible for an extension after the 2022 season.

At the same time next offseason, the Chargers will have to make a decision about Herbert’s fifth-year option. Given what we have seen from Herbert so far, there is little question the Chargers would exercise that fifth-year option. That and the potential deals to be signed by the likes of Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray could heavily influence the value of Herbert’s contract extension. It will also be intriguing to see who signs a contract extension first between Joe Burrow and Herbert next offseason.

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