Vikings Surprisingly Splurge on Rookie WR Contract Ahead of Training Camp

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings

Getty General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings struck gold with undrafted linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. last season and hope their luck with undrafted rookie free agents (UDFA) will continue with Maryland wide receiver Jeshaun Jones.

According to Over The Cap, the Vikings signed Jones to a three-year, $2.84 million contract. However, the more notable aspect of his contract is a $225,000 guaranteed base salary — the highest among all UDFAs — along with a $10,000 signing bonus.

It’s a surprising investment considering Jones was 56th-ranked wide receiver, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, in this year’s draft class. Guaranteed money is usually awarded to high-end UDFAs like Pace, who had been the consensus 153rd-ranked prospect last year before sliding due to his size.

Another example is UCLA linebacker Gabriel Murphy, a projected fourth-round pick who went undrafted. He secured a $225,000 guaranteed base salary and a $20,000 signing bonus — just slightly better than Jones who isn’t nearly the same high-profile prospect.

The Vikings clearly see something in Jones, whom coveted wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell identified as a worthy UDFA investment.

Jeshaun Jones Contending for Vikings Slot WR Role

Jeshaun Jones

GettyVikings rookie wide receiver Jeshaun Jones during a 2022 game for Maryland.

In his six-year career (2018-23) at Maryland, Jones played in 48 games, recording 151 receptions for 2,040 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jones is among only four true freshmen to score touchdowns on their first three career touches and the only player to do so by scoring a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown, during a 2018 matchup against Texas. He also tied Stefon Diggs with the most touchdowns by a Terrapins freshman with five TDs during the 2018 season.

In his senior year, Jones led Maryland with single-season career highs in receptions (56), receiving yards (790) and yards per game (60.8) in 2023. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten in each of the three categories.

Jones projects as a slot receiver in the NFL with his sub-4.5-second time in the 40 and route-running being his calling cards.

“Jeshaun Jones possesses good hands and route running ability and translates best as a slot at the next level, even though he possesses good size at [6-foot-1], he doesn’t excel at playing up to/bigger than his frame on outside. Jones does release well off LOS inside & out and tracks the ball well but struggles with body control and securing catches outside his frame downfield and around the boundary,” Hula Bowl assistant director of scouting Jimmy Williams wrote for NFL Draft Diamonds. “Jones will serve as a good practice squad/training camp body for a team, but I don’t believe he’ll produce much at all for an offense if he’s able to crack a 53.”

The Vikings have a competition for the No. 3 wide receiver role in the offense, however, there is quite a gauntlet of receivers to get through before Jones can be considered in the running for the job.

Vikings WR3 Camp Battle Is One to Watch

Justin Jefferson, Keenan McCardell

Image courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsVikings wide receivers and coach Keenan McCardell during a 2023 practice.

While Justin Jefferson‘s absence at OTAs was the prevailing headline from this week’s voluntary organized team activities, the bigger development for Vikings observers was the current pecking order at wide receiver.

Of course, Jordan Addison looked like the best receiver on the field in Jefferson’s absence.

Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor and Trent Sherfield are the frontrunners for the WR3 role in the offense and worked solely with the starters. Trishton Jackson was also working with the starters.

Lucky Jackson and Thayer Thomas had strong performances but worked more with the reserves. Malik Knowles, Ty James, N’Keal Harry, Devron Harper and Jones were among that same group.

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