The All-Pro spoke with media members on Thursday, September 28, and attempted to shut down the noise about the team trading some of its top players, including quarterback Kirk Cousins and edge-rusher Danielle Hunter, after starting the season 0-3.
“I’m tired of people saying that we’re looking into next season, or all of the trades and stuff like that,” Jefferson said. “We’re focused still on this season. We have a lot more games to go and we have a lot more things to accomplish this season. We’re still focused in, and we still have the same goal as we had before the season. We just need to fix a few things and I feel like we’ll be back on track.”
Vikings Have Been Competitive Despite 0-3 Start to Season
The Vikings are winless on the year, but not all 0-3 starts are created equal.
Minnesota has been competitive in two and a half of its three games, only struggling mightily against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter of the teams’ Week-2 matchup. The Vikings fell by three points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 and by four points to the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday. Both of those contests were decided late in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the day, it’s not going to be perfect every time,” Jefferson continued. “There’s things that you’ve got to go through throughout the season to really tell if you’re going to be a great team or not. We’re handling adversity early in the season with the turnovers and being 0-3, but there is a whole bunch of more games to go.”
Improvements to the offensive line with the addition of guard Dalton Risner and reinforcements in the backfield via a trade for Cam Akers could help Minnesota cover the narrow margins that have cost them multiple losses this season.
Taking better care of the football by everyone on the offense will also go a long way in that regard. The Vikings have been more careless with the ball than any team in the NFL this season, turning it over 9 times through three games. They are also tied with the Las Vegas Raiders for the worst turnover differential in the league at -7.
Vikings Will Be Irresponsible Not to Trade Kirk Cousins if Team Continues Losing
Another big problem is the Vikings’ upcoming schedule.
They have two road games against two of the NFL’s three other winless franchises — the Carolina Panthers this week and the Chicago Bears in Week 6. However, the other three contests in and around those matchups are home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers as well as a showdown with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field two days ahead of the October 31 trade deadline.
Playing themselves back into serious contention in the NFC North Division, or for a Wildcard spot, will be extremely difficult considering the 0-3 start. As such, trade speculation around Cousins and Hunter is more than warranted — even if Jefferson is tired of hearing about it.
Cousins is 35 years old and playing in the final year of his deal. The Vikings chose not to extend him long-term in 2022 or at all in 2023. The writing is on the wall.
“You’re further along in your football career, so you realize you’re running out of time,” Cousins told reporters Wednesday. “When you’re younger you maybe are a little more willing to shrug your shoulders and know there’s more games up ahead, and I think when you’re older you’re like, ‘It’s now.’ You know it’s got to be now.”
Hunter, meanwhile, made noise all offseason including pushing for a trade until Minnesota upped his 2023 salary to $17 million guaranteed. However, the Vikings didn’t add any years to Hunter’s deal, despite the fact that doing so could have allowed them considerable financial flexibility this season based on how they chose to structure an extension.
All of the decisions the Vikings have made point to wanting to be competitive now, but truly setting the roster up for the future. There is almost no version of events in which Cousins remains a part of that future and, as such, trading him for a meaningful draft asset makes sense if and when Minnesota no longer believes it has a reasonable chance to reach the postseason.
Hunter is something of a different story, but the Vikings have set themselves up for a bidding war to retain the pass-rusher by choosing not to extend him, as Hunter will hit unrestricted free agency in March. He’s been a Pro Bowler in three of the past five seasons and already has 5 sacks through three games this year. Hunter doesn’t turn 29 until late October and is certain to be coveted by several NFL teams if and when he hits free agency.
And so again, if the Vikings don’t plan to keep Hunter long-term and the team continues losing, trading the highly talented outside linebacker for a significant draft asset becomes the responsible choice.