The son of a former FBI agent, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has kept a cool demeanor at the press podium throughout his 18 months in Minnesota.
However, O’Connell was as visibly irked as he’s been as head coach this week when the biggest question surrounding organized team activities (OTAs) rose in a May 30 media conference.
Why is Justin Jefferson not here?
“It’s just one of those things… I just know he’s getting work, wherever he’s spending his offseason,” O’Connell said with a flick of his eyebrows. “Looking forward to having him here when he decides to come up, and I know his teammates will be excited about that.”
Eligible for a contract extension that could make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL, Jefferson is working his leverage to get a deal done now by holding out from Vikings OTAs. The league’s leading wide receiver with 4,825 receiving yards over the past three seasons has been absent over the past two weeks.
Although OTAs are voluntary, they’re essentially mandatory from a team-building perspective. Even star players in good contractual standing are there like Kirk Cousins and Harrison Smith. Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Cook and Jefferson are the only other players who did not attend OTAs on May 30. Jefferson had attended all team activities in his career up until this spring.
Sports Illustrated’s Will Ragatz and Matthew Coller of Purple Insider noted that O’Connell looked the most uncomfortable since having to address Ed Donatell’s defense last season.
“I thought O’Connell’s body language and the way he talked about it you could see him being unhappy,” Coller said on a May 30 episode of the Purple Insider podcast. “We see him talk all the time for an entire year. I don’t know other than talking about Ed Donatell’s defense have I seen him have that sort of body language.”
Jefferson’s contract has a strong chance of being the biggest deal the Vikings have offered in since Adrian Peterson, which will have its sticking points in negotiations.
O’Connell’s frustration with Jefferson’s absence isn’t a definite red flag that contract talks aren’t going well, but the second-year head coach would like the situation sorted out and his best player back on the practice field. He added that there has been an open line of communication between Jefferson and him.
Mandatory minicamps are scheduled for June 13 and June 14, when all the aforementioned stars who are currently holding out from OTAs are required to attend or incur a fine.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson Could Become Highest-Paid Non-QB in NFL
Jefferson’s contract extension is coming at an opportune time for the star wide receiver. He is coming off a 128-catch, 1,809-yard season where he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
The wide receiver market also exploded last offseason, setting the precedent for Jefferson to not only become the highest-paid wide receiver, but the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.
“Because wide receiver—that market has gone up to $30 million with Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, all of those guys,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said, per Bleacher Report. “Jefferson is considered by many around the league as the very best receiver in the NFL. So, are we talking, you know, Aaron Donald money, $31 million per year? We’ll see.”
Jordan Addison Held Out of Vikings OTAs Opens Door for Jalen Nailor
Jefferson isn’t the only wide receiver missing from the practice field.