There was a bad taste in the Minnesota Vikings locker room after a disappointing loss to open the 2023 season.
The soft deadline to extend Justin Jefferson this offseason came and went overnight. Coming off a historic 2022 season where Jefferson won Offensive Player of the Year honors by leading the league with 1,803 receiving yards, he began the 2023 season without a new deal in hand on Sunday despite months of negotiations.
Jefferson was his usual self, securing nine receptions for 150 yards, but all for naught. It had been 238 days since Minnesota’s first-round exit in the 2022 postseason, and Sunday was another reminder the Vikings are still a ways from contender status.
Minnesota has been snakebitten by star receivers leaving for greener pastures before, but after the harsh reminder of how far his team still has to go, Jefferson still isn’t showing any signs of frustration.
Asked if the season-opening loss impacted Jefferson’s feelings toward the team and whether he wants to remain with the Vikings in future seasons, he said: “Not really.”
“I have the same mindset as I had before. At the end of the day, all I can do is play football. And that’s what I continue to do,” Jefferson added in a locker room interview. “I know my team. My team doesn’t care about the contract, you know? And I don’t either. I just want to be here for my teammates, play for my teammates and of course get these wins.”
Vikings Insider Provides Intel Into Justin Jefferson Contract Talks
Jefferson enters the fourth year of his rookie contract, which is the final year of having him at a cheap cap hit.
Jefferson is set to earn $2.4 million this season before his fifth-year option kicks in for the 2024 season. He’ll carry a $19.7 million cap hit that year, which is still affordable considering the magnitude of the contract he’s expected to sign. The Vikings could franchise tag him afterward, however, playing the shrewd business card with superstar players isn’t a good look for Minnesota.
There appears to have been a hitch in contract negotiations that couldn’t be resolved despite having most of the year to iron out the details, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
“The Vikings hoped he would agree to a contract by Saturday, and talks were intense for much of the past week, but the circumstances proved too complicated to resolve,” Seifert reported on September 10.
While it isn’t a red alert that Jefferson is dissatisfied with the franchise, the price of his future contract will only grow with time. Minnesota would be wise to lock down Jefferson soon, but there are many more factors at play than just the total value of the contract.
Kevin O’Connell Denies Any Distraction About Justin Jefferson’s Contract
A season-opening loss can conjure some knee-jerk reactions in a fan base, which led a media member to ask Kevin O’Connell about any possibility of distraction due to Jefferson’s deal not getting done.
O’Connell denied any such thing and doubled down that the team had a good week of practice entering the matchup.
Regarding Jefferson, O’Connell maintained that he’s had a daily dialogue with the star wide receiver.
“He knows I support him 100 percent,” O’Connell said in a postgame press conference. “and he was all in today and really has been. We would have loved to get something done with Justin, but the decision was made. And I do not for one second believe that Justin is not going to put his best foot forward like he did today. And really was pretty darn special today.”