After posting the most receiving yards (3,016) by any player in their first two seasons in league history, Jefferson is poised to thrive under an offensive-minded for the first time in his professional career.
The 23-year-old wide receiver has virtually dominated every rep in training camp approaching a third-year campaign where he’s aiming to catapult himself atop the wide receiver ranks as the best receiver in the league.
“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.”
Jefferson’s rise to NFL stardom should be no surprise. However, he was slept on in the 2020 draft, when five teams selected wide receivers before the Vikings with the 22nd overall pick.
As a former Heisman trophy winner who was the top receiving prospect coming out of college in 1991, former Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard knows talent when he sees it — and he noticed a “fearlessness” that Jefferson flashed in college that has translated to the next level.
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Jefferson’s ‘Fearlessness’ Impressed Howard
In an exclusive interview with Heavy.com senior NFL reporter Matt Lombardo, Howard, speaking on behalf of Town House, detailed the traits that have made Jefferson one of the league’s top receivers, namely his “fearlessness.”
“(Jefferson’s) really smooth. Really good route runner. He’s deceptively fast. Great hand-eye coordination. I think he showed some fearlessness in college where he wouldn’t have any issues going across the middle,” Howard told Lombardo. “He has the nice height you look for. He plays the game like it’s meant to be played. I’m really impressed with him, as a receiver.”
Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991 after leading Michigan with 985 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He was selected fourth overall by Washington and made his mark in the NFL as a returner.
Howard was named Super Bowl MVP in 1996 after he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to propel the Green Bay Packers to a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots. It stands as the longest return touchdown in Super Bowl history, while Howard remains the only special teams player to ever win the award.
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Jefferson on the Verge of Massive Pay Day, Focused on Super Bowl First
Wide receivers had a marquee year financially in 2022.
Davante Adams reeled in a five-year, $140 million contract from the Las Vegas Raiders, making him the highest-paid pass catcher in history. Tyreek Hill, leaving the Kansas City Chiefs, garnered a $30 million deal annually with the Miami Dolphins.
Even players Jefferson’s age who are less proven struck massive extensions in D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel. A.J. Brown even forced his way out to hit a payday with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jefferson is already in conversation as a top-five wide receiver, setting up a massive contract extension when he becomes eligible for a new deal next offseason. While Jefferson said he’s “not too fond of money,” in the offseason, it ultimately comes down to respect — and the players with the biggest contract are the ones who are given the respect by their respective teams.
While several anonymous agents told Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated that they expect Jefferson to strike a deal in the ballpark of $28 to $32 million a year, the Vikings could get a better deal with the star wideout by offering him a fully guaranteed deal for the long term.
“We are asking the wrong question,” one 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.”
However Jefferson’s future contract negotiations pan out in the future, the star receiver is focused on making his own noise in the Super Bowl for now.
“I love it that it’s coming now,” Jefferson told Jeff Howe of The Athletic on Tuesday, August 16. “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.”
Town House teamed up with former wide receiver Desmond Howard to debut NEW Town House Game Day Dippers, specially shaped football-themed crackers in the brand’s popular dippable format.