Justin Jefferson Sends Bold Message on Future With Vikings

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Wide receiver Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings walks off the field after warm-up before a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson is already one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and soon, he’s going to be paid like it.

Players at Jefferson’s position collectively had a banner financial year in 2022, with the likes of Davante Adams pulling down a $140 million contract over five seasons from the Las Vegas Raiders to make him the highest paid pass catcher in history, only to be surpassed by an extension for Tyreek Hill from the Miami Dolphins that will pay him $30 million annually.

Even less proven players who weren’t first-round picks bullied their way into massive extensions from their current teams, such as D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks and Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers. Then there was the case of A.J. Brown, who talked his way into a trade out of Tennessee to a big payday with the Philadelphia Eagles.

What all this means for Jefferson — who is at least in the same conversation with the best receivers in the game after only his second year, if not surpassing them — is that a massive contract awaits on the horizon when he becomes extension eligible following the 2022 season. The Vikings Pro Bowler spoke about that development with Jeff Howe of The Athletic on Tuesday, August 16.

“I love it that it’s coming now,” Jefferson said. “All of the top receivers are getting paid this year. The future is very bright. Definitely, the market is getting higher. At this moment, I’m trying to focus on winning the Super Bowl. After the Super Bowl, we can definitely talk more about that.”

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Jefferson’s Deal Expected to Rival, or Surpass, Highest Ever For WR

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter of a game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 9, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) 

Six days prior to Jefferson’s conversation with The Athletic, Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated spoke with three agents around the league about what they expect the market to bear for Jefferson and his former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals. Chase will be extension eligible two seasons from now and produced a stellar rookie season.

One agent said between $28 million and $30 million per year, which are the numbers Adams and Hill earn, respectively, on the deals they signed this offseason.A second agent said $30 million to $32 million annually, but added the number wasn’t likely to climb much higher.

A third agent had a different answer.

“We are asking the wrong question,” the agent told Orr. “It’s not necessarily about the AAV (average annual value) when it comes to wide receivers, and it’s more about a period we may be entering when receivers, like quarterbacks, can start to inch closer to fully guaranteed contracts.”

The Vikings have a history of offering fully guaranteed deals to their top performers, albeit a brief and new one. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah just extended Kirk Cousins for a season on fully guaranteed deal. The quarterback arrived in Minnesota on a three-year contract that was also fully guaranteed by the previous leadership regime.

Orr went on to point out that Samuel, Metcalf and wide receiver Cooper Cupp of the Los Angeles Rams all received guarantees on between 80% and 90% of the money included in their extensions.

All of that adds up to Jefferson finding himself in an extremely strong bargaining position when he comes to the negotiating table next year.

Justin Jefferson Intent on Becoming Best Wide Receiver in NFL

Kirk Cousins

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson (right) of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates with quarterback Kirk Cousins (left) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 9, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Jefferson’s bargaining position will only grow stronger if he can replicate either of the campaigns he produced to start his NFL career.

The wideout amassed 3,016 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns across 33 appearances, per Pro Football Reference, earning trips to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors both years.

By his own words, Jefferson intends to become the NFL’s best receiver in short order. The player he believes he needs to catch is Adams, his former NFC North Division foe with the Green Bay Packers.

“I’ll say after this year I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL,” Jefferson told Complex during a July 14 interview. “I definitely have to give it to Davante Adams as of now, him being so crazy and dynamic on the field. His route running is crazy, so I definitely have to give it to him right now. But I’m pretty sure after this year, it’s going to be me.”

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