Eligible for a contract extension, Jefferson is poised to become the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history this offseason. He addressed whether he wants to remain with the Vikings long term, saying that so long as the Vikings want him, he’s here to stay.
“I mean, I will be wherever I’m wanted. If they want me here, I’m here. That’s not something that I can really control,” Jefferson told Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson on January 16.
The Vikings are expected to show Jefferson they want him by offering the largest wide receiver contract in league history. However, Jefferson, an ultra-competitor, finds himself in a similar predicament as the receiver who he replaced, Stefon Diggs. Diggs struck a lucrative five-year extension in 2018 and was gone not even two full years after signing the deal.
Jefferson, like Diggs, wants to win. And if the franchise doesn’t have a realistic roadmap to becoming a true contender, Jefferson could look to move on elsewhere.
In the meantime, Jefferson will likely agree to a new deal as he’s continued to remain coy about contract talks. But the franchise’s biggest question for the future — who will succeed Kirk Cousins at quarterback — will have the biggest sway if Jefferson will be content after the Cousins era.
At 23 years old, Jefferson can afford to be patient, but the Vikings would be advised to not waste a single season of Jefferson’s prime experimenting at the quarterback position.
“That’s not my decision. It is what it is,” Jefferson said about whether he deserves to be the league’s highest-paid wide receiver, per the Pioneer Press. “They pay me whatever they pay me. They don’t even really have to give me an extension this year. It is what it is. It’s not really something that I’m really worried about.
“I want to win a Super Bowl. That’s the thing I’m most focused on. The money comes with the job,” Jefferson added.
Vikings Return to Playoff Purgatory After Loss to Giants
Despite clinching the NFC North title for the first time since 2017 behind a 13-win season, Minnesota showed it’s far from being a contender by dropping at the hands of a Giants team that rank 15th in scoring offense and 17th in scoring defense.
The Vikings strived to find a quarterback as the final piece missing from their 2017 playoff run to the NFC Championship. Cousins was signed on to complement one of the league’s most talented defenses.
But just as Cousins has come around and started playing winning football, the Vikings defense has fallen off a cliff, allowing the second-most yards and fifth-most points per game in the league in 2022. Five seasons after making a franchise-altering move for Cousins, the Vikings have one playoff win to show for it.
Vikings Likely to Go All-In Again in 2023
Although the Vikings’ financial future is bleak, Minnesota should be expected to go all in again with the NFC North wide open for the next several seasons.
However, next season, the means of rebuilding the defense are meek. The Vikings are currently $8 million over the expected 2023 salary cap, per Spotrac. Cousins has the sixth-highest cap hit of $36.3 million among quarterbacks entering the final year of his current contract. Another short-term extension is likely on the horizon for the 33-year-old quarterback to create some cap space for next season — although the savings likely won’t warrant more than a few budget veteran free-agent signings.
Cutting weight with bloated veteran contracts will likely be the M.O. in the offseason, however, the true cap savings will come by 2024 when less dead money will be on the books.