‘A Knife Into the Vikings:’ Super Bowl Coach Cautions Paying Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings struck gold when selecting Justin Jefferson 22nd overall in the 2020 draft.

But as Jefferson is approaching the end of his rookie contract, paying the superstar may be fool’s gold given the state of the franchise, Super Bowl-winning coach Marty Morhinweg asserted.

Morhinweg, a former NFL head coach and assistant coach with 34 years of experience, warned the Vikings about paying Jefferson an exorbitant salary as the ante continues to rise surrounding Jefferson’s next contract. Jefferson is expected to strike a deal that could make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league, exceeding an annual value of $30 million a year.

Vikings Have the Money for Justin Jefferson, But What About the Quarterback?

Mornhinweg cautioned that paying a non-quarterback that kind of money could drastically change the construction of the roster in the future, forcing the franchise to move on from several talented players in the future.

“Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’ll tell you the negatives. It will put a knife right into the salary cap you’re going to have to let some pretty good players go to get this thing done. It’s going to damage the core of your football team if you go about it that way,” Morhinweg said in a video with The 33rd Team. “The only way you pay Justin Jefferson as much or more as a quarterback is if you know that Justin Jefferson is the one player that you need on your football team to go win a Super Bowl. If not, then Justin Jefferson may show up on another team in the NFL at some point.”

Mornhinweg’s point is valid… but in a vacuum.

The Vikings have slowly moved on from many of their most expensive veterans who say paydays after the 2017 NFC Championship appearance. The new regime is moving forward with its competitive rebuild, shedding those expensive contracts and attempting a retool of its defense with younger players.

Most teams can only carry a handful of players making eight figures a year against the cap and still fill out a 53-man roster with talented depth players. Those contracts serve your core players.

Of young core players, the Vikings only have one locked down for the next three seasons: left tackle Brian O’Neill.

Danielle Hunter, Christian Darrisaw, T.J. Hockenson and Jefferson are all in line for extensions in the next two seasons — with Jefferson’s expected to be at the top of the cap sheet.

The Vikings can support all these players with respectable deals, but the most important roster void remains at quarterback.

Kirk Cousins is in the final year of his current contract and the Vikings likely cannot sustain Jefferson and him both making north of $30 million a year and put together a competitive roster.

Minnesota took steps toward finding a successor to Cousins, ideally a quarterback on a rookie-scale deal. However, there’s no answer currently ready to take the starting reigns by next season.

Vikings Preparing to Find Next Franchise QB and Pay Justin Jefferson

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to be the general manager who lets Jefferson walk away from his franchise.

After an offseason where the Vikings showed they’re in process of drafting a first-round quarterback, the plan appears to be to pay Jefferson and compensate by finding a quarterback on a rookie-scale deal.

Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell spoke extensively about the benefits of building a roster with a quarterback on a rookie deal, which showed their interest in that prospect after Cousins.

However, with the amount of dead cap sunk into Cousins and no apparent heir in sight, don’t be surprised if the Vikings attempt to re-sign Cousins for at least one more year to put the plan into action.

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