Vikings Under Fire for Sending Jefferson ‘Mixed Signals’ on New Contract

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Justin Jefferson‘s absence at organized team activities (OTAs) this week has put the Minnesota Vikings under fire to stop sending “mixed signals” in contract talks with the league’s top wide receiver.

Pro Football Talks’ Mike Florio addressed the latest development in Jefferson’s contract saga, which was expected after Jefferson skipped OTAs last year when contract talks began. Florio called out the Vikings for publicly maintaining confidence that a deal would get done while the price rises as more receivers reset the market.

“I believe there’s frustration from the Jefferson camp. The Vikings have been playing games with Jefferson. It’s very simple: if you want him, act accordingly. If you’re going to say he deserves to be paid like a top non-quarterback in the NFL, then pay him like a top non-quarterback in the NFL,” Florio said on a May 21 episode of Pro Football Talk.

“You can’t try to placate everyone and say it’s all going to be fine we’re going to take care of him and then do nothing to take care of him and only put yourself in a tougher position — ’cause it keeps getting more expensive. It’s ludicrous.”

Vikings Have Subtle Sticker Shock With Justin Jefferson’s Deal, PFT’s Mike Florio Suggests

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings

GettyGeneral Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

Florio has an accurate account of the Vikings’ public posturing. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in February at the NFL Scouting Combine that the Vikings believe he’s the best wide receiver and one of the best non-quarterbacks in the league and “should be compensated as such.”

Since then, A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown have both received extensions north of $30 million a year. The basis of Florio’s frustration with the Vikings is if they truly believe Jefferson is deserving, why wait and allow more receiver contracts to raise the market?

There’s also the urgency of accelerating J.J. McCarthy‘s growth and chemistry with Jefferson, especially if McCarthy does not win the starting job and is relegated to limited reps in practice by the start of the regular season.

“Here’s the problem with not getting it done now: You don’t have Justin Jefferson there as you’re trying to get your rookie quarterback. You’re undermining your ability to get ready for the season because he’s not there getting ready with the new quarterback that you’re trying to get the most out of right away.” Florio added. “Write the damn check and get the guy in there.”

During his combine news conference, Adofo-Mensah said they came “unbelievably close” to getting a deal done on the eve of the 2023 season.

Florio said that the Vikings were too pennywise when it came to guarantees at the time and have now suggested Jefferson may want too much by leaking that Jefferson turned down a deal worth $30 million to ESPN’s Dan Adam Schefter.

“Last year, Jefferson was ready to do it, the ball was in the Vikings’ court and it came down to guarantees. Earlier this year they put out this idea that he turned down $30 million,” Florio said. “That is kind of a subtle way of saying, ‘This guy wants too much money.’ Whatever he wanted last year, it’s gonna be more this year. Salary cap’s gone up. Market’s gone up. Expectation’s gone up. He’s a more important player relative to the team now that Kirk Cousins is gone.”

Vikings Have Deadline for Justin Jefferson’s Extension

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyJustin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

While the external panic meter is rising across the NFL, the Vikings have a plan for Jefferson.

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the Vikings have a policy regarding signing bonuses that would imply Jefferson’s deal will not be finalized until after July 31.

“There’s a number of reasons to think [an extension agreement] might take until closer to the season. The Vikings have a policy with their signing bonuses where July 31st is kind of a key date and they might want to wait until after that,” Graziano said on NFL Live.

The Vikings’ policy aligns with the timeline of several other contracts for stars of Jefferson’s stature. It wouldn’t be a surprise that news of the deal could break on the eve of training camp.

However, Jefferson’s camp has also drawn out negotiations through August in other deals. Jefferson will likely remain absent at team activities, but if he is absent at the start of training camp, then it’s time to worry.