You have surely noticed this, but Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is pretty good. Like, best-in-the-league good. The Patriots have noticed—in his one career game against New England, in 2022, Jefferson went for nine catches on 11 targets, with 139 yards and a touchdown.
Jefferson posted 1,809 yards for Minnesota last year, most in the NFL, and also led the league with 128 receptions. He has been posting absurd numbers since he was drafted 22nd overall from LSU three years ago—1,400 yards as a rookie, 1,616 yards in Year 2. His three-year yardage total to start his career was the most of any receiver in history.
Though Minnesota is 0-2 and struggling thus far this season, Jefferson is still atop the league in yardage (309) and has made 20 catches. He is third on Pro Football Focus’ receiver rankings, behind Brandon Aiyuk of the 49ers and Tyreek Hill of the Dolphins.
And if the folks at FanDuel have any say about it, he could be a New England Patriot if those Minnesota struggles keep up. In a tweet this week, the gambling site proposed a deal in which the Pats would give up their first- and third-round picks in 2024 and their first-rounder in 2025 to bring Jefferson to New England.
Would the Vikings (or Patriots) Pay Jefferson?
The site posted the image with the question: “Who says no?” Hard to imagine the Patriots saying no to a deal that brings back Jefferson, and similarly hard to imagine the Vikings—even if they decide to go into a rebuilding mode—saying yes to a package of three picks.
The Vikings do have the challenge of needing to pay Jefferson after this season. The team picked up his fifth-year option, at $19.7 million, for next season but an extension should make him the highest paid receiver in the NFL. That’s currently Hill, who signed a four-year contract worth $120 million with the Dolphins.
Would the Vikings surpass that to keep Jefferson? Would the Patriots, who prefer to invest in defense, be willing to do so?
“I’m in a different situation,” Jefferson said earlier this month, according to ESPN. “I’ve done something that no one has ever done in the history of the game. So my situation is a little bit different than everyone else’s. Of course, I’m going into my fourth year, trying to talk about contract two years early. There’s so many different parts that go in towards it. That’s why I leave it up to my agent and just keep my mindset on the field.”
Patriots WRs Are Lacking
Still, the idea of bringing Jefferson to New England has a huge appeal to the Patriots and the team’s fans, who are watching third-year quarterback Mac Jones put together a solid, mature season, despite being asked to do so without any high-quality weapons on hand.
DeVante Parker is the Patriots’ top receiver, and has six catches for 57 yards on his ledger, after missing Week 1 with an injury. On the PFF receiver board, Parker rates No. 32 in the league. The next Patriots wideout on the list is Kendrick Bourne, at No. 62.
The Patriots let Jakobi Meyers go in free agency this offseason, and brought in Juju Smith-Schuster, who has struggled to have a high-level impact.
Besides which, none of the Patriots’ veteran receivers are particularly speedy. Jefferson, though, ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash when he was coming out of college.
That lack of speed is hurting, as ex-quarterback and veteran analyst Boomer Esiason said on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show this week.
“I’m telling you, it’s speed,” Esiason said. “Instead of having 4.3 [40-yard dash] guys, you have 4.5, 4.6 guys. The opposing team, if you’re not tricking them or fooling them, can stay with your guys. A couple times I saw deep throws – it wasn’t like they weren’t trying to do that – but it seemed like those guys were all covered or a ball was underthrown by Mac Jones that led to an interception.
“This whole entire league is built on speed. The dynamic speed that guys like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle bring to a game completely puts the defense on their heels. The Patriots don’t have anybody like that.”