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Costa Mesa, CA - July 26: Justin Herbert, quarterback with the Los Angeles Chargers, speaks to the media following the first practice of training camp at the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

This week, quarterback Justin Herbert agreed to a new deal with the Los Angeles Chargers that makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Good for him; he rocks. But the details of the deal, as so many NFL contracts are, are shrouded in arcane league jargon and can be a little difficult to parse. Allow Defector to help.

OK, so, that's $133.7 million fully guaranteed. Fully guaranteed means guaranteed at signing, so he's guaranteed to make $133.7M. But! There are other guarantees that are not guaranteed yet. Herbert's also got $193.7M guaranteed for injury. This guarantees the money only if Herbert gets hurt and can't play, which means the money is guaranteed unless the Chargers decide they don't want to pay it. If it were also guaranteed for skill and guaranteed for cap, it would be fully guaranteed (which is a different guarantee than the "fully guaranteed at signing" here), but it's not, so there's no guarantee Herbert will be guaranteed that guarantee. With me so far?

But! Schefter tells us that Herbert's contract has the possibility but not a certainty of $218.7M guaranteed money. It's not a guaranteed guarantee but a potential guarantee. This is likely tied to performance milestones, which means the guarantee will become guaranteed if he plays well and but is unguaranteed if not, or if he's still on the roster as various tranches of guarantee kick in. So this guarantee is not quite guaranteed, but it's guaranteed to become guaranteed, unless it doesn't. Simple, right?

But! Schefter also notes that Herbert's deal contains $185M in new guarantees. As we've shown, some of these new guarantees are fully guaranteed, and some are guaranteed for injury but not guaranteed-guaranteed, and some are potential guarantees. So what's a new guarantee? This contract supersedes Herbert's old one, which still had two seasons left on it. That contract had some guarantees, but since that deal is being torn up and replaced, its guarantees are no longer guaranteed. Those unguaranteed guarantees are replaced with the new guarantees, which are guaranteed unless they're not or unless a future contract's guarantees render the current guarantees unguaranteed.

I see you shaking your head. What about this are you not getting? Justin Herbert can earn $218.7 million in guaranteed money, though $25M of that guarantee is only a potential guarantee; of the non-potential, guaranteed guarantees, $60M is guaranteed for injury but not guaranteed for other things; which leaves $133.7M in fully guaranteed guarantees, some of which are replacing previous guarantees that weren't guaranteed.

Also, his five-year deal is actually for seven years. Unless it turns out to be shorter. Nothing's guaranteed.

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