Vikings ‘Most Underpaid Player’ Poised to Sign Monster Extension

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings got off their most expensive contract when Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons, leaving his top target Justin Jefferson as the prime candidate to assume that mantle on his next deal.

Jefferson is entering the fifth-year team option on his rookie contract in 2024 and has been extension-eligible since last offseason. The wideout is set to make just under $20 million this year, though most of his extension projections predict Jefferson will reset the market at the position whenever that deal comes.

Until then, however, Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report believes Jefferson is the Vikings’ “most underpaid player.”

“He’ll make more in his option year than he did in his first four seasons combined, but even $19.7 million is a steal for, arguably, the NFL’s best receiver,” Gagnon wrote on Friday, April 12. “He’s done some unreal damage for a total price of just $13.3 million the last four years.”

NFL Analysts Predict Justin Jefferson Will Reset Market at Wide Receiver Position

Justin Jefferson

GettyMinnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson has three Pro Bowl selections and first-team All-Pro honors in 2022 to his credit. He lead the NFL in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809) two years ago and has hauled in 30 TD catches in 60 career games across four professional seasons, Per Pro Football Reference.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote in March that Jefferson’s next contract will break the all-time record for NFL receivers. He added that the only real question remaining is by how much?

“Jefferson is likely to set the top of the receiver market whenever he signs, and his deal is certain to pay him more than $30 million per year,” Graziano said. “The question is how much more.”

Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine predicted on April 6 that Jefferson will blow past the top total number ever (Davante Adams at $140 million) by $30 million by signing a five-year contract worth $170 million.

From a team-building perspective, the Vikings are in a good position to give Jefferson a market-altering contract. They parted ways with Kirk Cousins, which is going to open up cap space over the next few seasons.

The biggest question isn’t money. The Vikings are in a position to offer that. However, the quarterback situation is one worth monitoring. With the team moving on from Cousins, it might have to wait to get a commitment from Jefferson until he sees who will be throwing him the ball.

Vikings Must Find Franchise QB to Keep Justin Jefferson Happy

Washington Commanders, Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson

GettyMinnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

As Ballentine noted, this offseason is going to be crucial to Minnesota’s long-term success and Jefferson’s faith in the franchise’s ability to piece together a true Super Bowl contender.

Letting Cousins walk was a difficult call, but paying him $180 million over four years like Atlanta did may have actually done more to hurt the Vikings’ chances to truly contend rather than help them. That said, signing Sam Darnold to a one-year deal isn’t likely to appease Jefferson, who was a supporter of Cousins across the four years they spent together in Minnesota and who advocated for the quarterback’s return this offseason.

The Vikings have positioned themselves to try and trade up for a franchise quarterback in the NFL draft later this month, amassing two first-round picks (Nos. 11 and 23). The cost to go up could prove prohibitive, with the New England Patriots seeking more than three first-rounders to give up the No. 3 overall pick and the New York Giants potentially getting in the game to trade up from the No. 6 spot.

The next few weeks will be telling in regards to Minnesota’s long-term outlook and the franchise’s relationship with Jefferson.

Read More