How Dak Prescott‘s Contract Impacts The Los Angeles Chargers And Justin Herbert
I know, at first glance, there is little comparison. But that’s not really true, is it? Let’s look at the contracts:
First, let’s look at Dak Prescott‘s 4-year deal which includes two separate financial league records: 1) $126 million in guaranteed money and 2) a $66 million signing bonus:
|YEAR||BASE PAY||SIGNING BONUS PRORATED||ROSTER BONUS||GUARANTEED BASE||CAP HIT||DEAD MONEY|
|2021||$9 MILLION||$13.2 MILLION||0||$9 MILLION||$22.2 MILLION||$9.5 MILLION|
|2022||$20 MILLION||$13.2 MILLION||0||$20 MILLION||$33.2 MILLION||$72.8 MILLION|
|2023||$31 MILLION||$13.2 MILLION||0||0||$44.2 MILLION||$39.6 MILLION|
|2024||$29 MILLION||$13.2 MILLION||$5 MILLION||0||$47.2 MILLION||$26.4 MILLION|
|2025||VOID||$13.2 MILLION||VOID||VOID||$13.2 MILLION||$13.2 MILLION|
|TOTAL||$89 MILLION||$66 MILLION||$5 MILLION||$29 MILLION||$160 MILLION|
Next, here is a look at Justin Herbert‘s 4-year deal, which includes a $16,890,004 signing bonus with $26,578,755 guaranteed.
|YEAR||BASE SALARY||SIGNING BONUS||CAP HIT||DEAD CAP||YEARLY CASH|
Like all first-round picks, the Chargers will have a fifth-year option available to them in 2024. The amount they pay that year will be determined before the start of the 2024 league year that March.
A CASE FOR HERBERT?
There is obviously a lot of projecting involved here, but as an individual, Herbert would be wise to be thinking of the kind of long-term deal Prescott just signed. He was the third quarterback picked in the 2020 NFL Draft behind both Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Herbert finished breaking single-season records for the most passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback with 31, the most total touchdowns by a rookie quarterback with 36, and the most completions 396. He was also very close to setting a new record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback but finished with 4,336 (And he didn’t play in the first game).
Playing behind Pro Football Focus’s worst offensive line in the league, Herbert completed the most passes while under duress with a whopping 110. He had a 99.4% passer rating when pressured, seven games of a passer rating over 100 while facing pressure 239 of his 653 dropbacks.
That’s pretty impressive.
Just for comparison sake, Prescott had 23 touchdowns, 3,667 yards on 459 passing attempts, and 311 completions in his rookie season. He also rushed for six touchdowns.
A CASE AGAINST HERBERT?
If we were talking strictly about contract negotiations, Herbert has no case. He is locked into a four-year rookie deal with a team’s fifth-year option. That is now standard for rookies (thanks, Sam Bradford)!!
But it is always about more.
The most immediate impact is the desire for the Chargers to have a franchise quarterback. To ensure that they will most definitely have to get that offensive line right. Acquiring veteran healthy offensive linemen in free agency is the first step. With their nine picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, they need to get in on the quality offensive linemen available.
The Chargers offensive line isn’t good enough. The sad truth is that it has been a very underwhelming unit ever since Nick Hardwick retired. The Dallas Cowboys, who could once boast of their great offensive line, ranked near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate at 53%. Prescott suffered a catastrophic injury last season behind that line.
The Cincinnati Bengals, whose offensive line woes mirror the Chargers, had their future franchise quarterback, Burrow, also suffer a major injury, playing behind a porous line.
The most important impact of Prescott’s contract should be both the player and the team need to keep their franchise quarterback healthy. This obviously did not happen with Prescott last season, but he had four previous seasons where he did not miss a game. As Geoff Schwartz states, “From 2014 to 2017, Dallas owned the unquestioned best offensive line in football, featuring multiple future Hall of Famers, All-Pros and Pro Bowlers.”
Prescott played under that line for two years. The eventual deterioration resulting from 2020 opt-outs, injuries, and poor play ended Prescott’s season after five games.
The number one impact is the necessity for the Chargers to fix that offensive line now.
Monetarily speaking, the lesson for the Chargers is not to wait around. Yes, the floor for payments to good quarterbacks has been raised. The cost to keep a great quarterback has skyrocketed.
The Cowboys dragged their feet on paying Prescott. They paid their running back, their wide receiver, and franchised the man under center. Prescott would have been a free agent this season, arguably the most sought-after free agent.
Teams will always need a good quarterback.
There is the expectation that Herbert will experience some regression this season. His stats from last season are ridiculous and will be very hard to sustain. But if he plays like the franchise quarterback, the Chargers should take a lesson of what not to do from the Cowboys and wrap him up around the time that fifth-year option comes around.
The Prescott contract will have reverberations all through the NFL. The Chargers who have been on the precipice of being an annual post-season contender faltered under a host of coaches and Philip Rivers under center.
Now they have a chance to change the narrative. Looming under the shadow of Prescott’s contract they need to not only keep Herbert safe by greatly improving the offensive line, but also not wait until the last second to pay the face of the franchise.