The quarterback contract market has reached exit velocity. It was just a few years ago when a player signing a contract for $40 million a year seemed inconceivable, and yet on Tuesday, Justin Herbert became the fourth signal-caller in the last 18 months to sign a contract worth more than $50 million per year, while mid-level players like Daniel Jones and Derek Carr have signed deals in the $40 million range.
Herbert’s deal is noted as five years, $262.5 million, the biggest ever for the NFL. On the surface you would think that this would be bad news for the Cowboys, as Dak Prescott’s own $40 million per year contract has only about 18 months left before it expires.
But if you dig deeper into the Herbert contract we can see some very good news.
The first aspect of the contract that is good news for Dallas? The timing.
Herbert was going into year four of his rookie contract, meaning the Chargers had two years left on his existing contract when he signed his new deal. This is exactly the point that Dak is on in his current contract. Other quarterbacks who have recently signed market setting deals with multiple years remaining on their current pacts, include Russell Wilson’s extension with the Broncos, Kyler Murray’s extension in Arizona, and Patrick Mahomes one-of-one agreement with the Chiefs.
This is good news for the Cowboys in two ways. First, it gives them a precedent to point to in negotiations with Dak’s agent, that other quarterbacks are signing deals early and still reaching the top of the market. Second, it gives the Cowboys some precedent to point to if other veteran players try to use a new Dak extension as justification that they need a new deal with two years remaining. The Cowboys can claim a ‘QB exception rule’ for revisiting deals that early.
The next aspect of the extension that is good news for the Cowboys is the length of the deal, Herbert’s contract makes eight of the top-10 quarterback contracts in annual value, that are all at least five-year contracts. Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Pat Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen have all signed at least five-year contracts, with all but Jackson and Watson signing those deals as extensions.
When Dak signed his current contract, he had deals like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and others to point to as guys who were getting the top of the market for contract value, while also signing for only four years. But in the time since, the market has shifted. The only guys signing shorter deals like that are guys like Derek Carr, Matt Stafford, and Daniel Jones. None of whom got near the top of the market from a money stand point.
A five-year extension is much more valuable to the team than a four-year deal because of the freedom it gives Stephen Jones and Adam Prasifka to move the cap charges around year to year.
Dak has a great deal of leverage in his negotiations with the team because he is their most important player and the keystone the team is built around. But the Justin Herbert contract, as well as the other recent quarterback deals have given the Cowboys some help as they go to Dak’s camp with a clear outline of what the his value is on the quarterback market, with a great deal of certainty.