Vikings Ending Justin Jefferson Saga Before Week 1 a ‘Mild Upset,’ Insider Says

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are just days away from the beginning of the 2023 season and have yet to sign star wide receiver Justin Jefferson to an extension.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday, September 7, that a deal getting done before Sunday’s kickoff against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be considered a “mild upset” in league circles.

“The Vikings have been trying to extend receiver Jefferson’s contract, but some people inside the league believe getting something done by Week 1 kickoff would be a mild upset,” Fowler said. “Perhaps Minnesota can pull it off, but the team has at least three years of contractual control due to a fifth-year option in 2024 and the ability to franchise-tag him after that. That alleviates pressure.”

Jefferson isn’t in any rush either as the market continues to explode for elite players in the league. San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa reset the market with a massive five-year, $170 million deal on Wednesday, which will serve as a benchmark for future negotiations between the Vikings and Jefferson.

“And as was told to me, Jefferson is comfortable playing this year out in the absence of the right offer — one that is sure to alter the market when completed, given his stature as one of the game’s best players regardless of position,” Fowler added.

Entering his fourth year in the league, Jefferson returns as the league’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year after snagging 128 catches for 1809 yards and eight touchdowns. He leads the NFL with 4,825 receiving yards since entering the league in 2020.

 What Nick Bosa’s Contract Extension Means for Vikings, Justin Jefferson

Jefferson’s next contract has been talked about since he followed up a record-breaking rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign in 2021.

He’s expected to reset the market, becoming the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league. But Jefferson’s camp was in no rush to get a deal done before Bosa, who was entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.

Bosa’s five-year, $170 million deal comes with $122.5 million in guarantees. The average annual value of $34 million tops Aaron Donald‘s $31.1 million annual mark on his deal. Minnesota will likely have to surpass $34 million a year on Jefferson’s new contract.

For reference, the Vikings paid Kirk Cousins $35 million for a one-year contract extension in 2022.

The price will only go higher for Jefferson as the league’s salary cap is expected to explode with more television deals in the coming years.

Building a roster around Jefferson’s next contract will be the “champagne problems” general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have to manage in the future.

Kirk Cousins’ Chances of Staying With Vikings Take a Hit

Within the next two years, the Vikings offense is expected to have three players who are paid the highest at their positions in Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw and tight end T.J. Hockenson, who signed a four-year, $66 million extension last week.

That’s going to leave less cap space for the rest of the roster, and with quarterback contracts skyrocketing about $40 million a season, Minnesota will have a hard time filling out a roster that’s competitive if they have to pay Cousins that rate.

If Cousins has another solid season, he’s bound to get a better offer elsewhere, and it will come down to whether he’s willing to offer a team discount if the Vikings are inclined to keep him beyond the 2023 season.

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