When Justin Jefferson signs his next contract, he will reset the wide receiver market and potentially become the highest-paid non-quarterback in football.
However, it appears his camp is playing the waiting game with the Minnesota Vikings — and money doesn’t seem to be the deal-breaker.
The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported on Sunday, October 1, that Minnesota has no intention of trading Jefferson but tried to make Jefferson one of the league’s highest-paid players to no avail.
“The team already tried extending Jefferson in a deal that would make him one of the highest-paid players in football,” Russini wrote before the Vikings clinched a must-win game over the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. “Two team sources said the Vikings are not punting on the season and have no plans to trade Cousins, who would have to waive his no-trade clause to be moved. In addition, those sources shot down trade rumors regarding star wide receiver Justin Jefferson.”
The Vikings’ attempts at extending Jefferson are not a new development, but this is the first indication that Minnesota was indeed offering him top dollar.
It begs the question: Why was a deal not reached before the start of the season?
Justin Jefferson’s New Contract Hinges on the Kirk Cousins Decision
Despite an offseason where the Vikings searched the draft for a successor at quarterback, Minnesota has no direction under center beyond the 2023 season.
Kirk Cousins, who is in the final year of his contract, said that he plans to entertain the free agency market by not engaging in contract talks with the Vikings until March.
Meanwhile, Jefferson will enter the final offseason of his rookie contract, and the pressure will be on Minnesota to make the generational talent happy.
Jefferson’s knowing who is throwing the ball to him and their prospects of creating a winning culture will be vital to finalizing a lengthy deal. If Minnesota does not have a clear plan at quarterback by next June, the contract situation with Jefferson could get muddier. He could be inclined to take only a three-year extension versus a five-year.
Jefferson could play out the fifth-year option in his rookie contract and reach free agency by 2025, but the Vikings could begin to play the franchise tag game with him.
That is not how you want to treat a superstar in the NFL. Jefferson will look to be paid and have long-term security. He’s been far from a diva throughout his tenure, but if Minnesota leaves him hanging contractually or does not settle its decision at quarterback, he could show signs of being disgruntled.
Vikings Including Justin Jefferson in Vikings’ Plans at QB
Approaching the 2023 draft, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made his intentions with Jefferson clear.
“I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team,” Adofo-Mensah said, per The Athletic. “So, it’s a priority.”
Additionally, Adofo-Mensah expressed his desire to keep Jefferson informed of all major considerations, including who will be the quarterback.
“For certain, he’s someone we’ll keep in all of our conversations,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Just because, again, we treat everybody with respect, and we understand that we need their buy-in, ultimately, for us to get where we need to go.”
It’s a rarity for a wide receiver to have a seat at the decision-making table regularly reserved for only quarterbacks — but Jefferson is a special talent that the Vikings do not want to risk alienating amid a transitional period for the franchise.
“Sometimes business (decisions are needed) and there are different solutions that need to happen, and we’ll go from there,” Adofo-Mensah said. “It will be draining. It will be tough. That’s why we get paid what we get paid and get the response we get. I’m not always going to be the most-liked person in the room. That’s just kind of the job.
“That is my job. I will never deceive, and I will say the truth. We can deal with it if we don’t like that truth, but you always have to start with some level of truth and then go from there.”