Vikings’ $20 Million Star ‘Likely’ to Be Traded on NFL Draft Night, If Ever

Justin Jefferson

Getty Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson.

The Minnesota Vikings are at a crossroads, which could lead to a franchise-altering move on the night of the NFL draft.

Alex Kay of Bleacher Report on Tuesday, April 23 compiled a list of five players “likely to be traded” on the first night of the draft. Among them, he named Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson:

While head coach Kevin O’Connell joked that he sent flowers to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to sweeten the pot in a potential trade for New England’s No. 3 overall draft slot, the Pats could push to get superstar wideout Justin Jefferson back in addition to those roses.

[ESPN’s Bill] Barnwell pegged Jefferson’s value to a No. 7 overall pick, noting that the loaded receiver class somewhat reduces the value of a player who has amassed an astonishing 5,899 yards and 30 touchdowns on 392 catches over his first four NFL seasons.

While it’s a long shot that Jefferson’s replacement would start his career anywhere close to the level Jefferson has attained so rapidly, the Vikings — who also have 2023 first-rounder Jordan Addison to anchor the receiving corps — may be willing to gamble on a fresh start if it means they get a franchise quarterback to build around.

Justin Jefferson Represents Trade Chip That Could Land Vikings Chance to Draft Drake Maye

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Kay mentioned a trade proposal Barnwell floated on April 18, which includes the No. 23 overall pick and Jefferson to the Patriots in exchange for the No. 3 selection.

Barnwell wrote that that pick could allow Minnesota to select Drake Maye of UNC, who has a relationship with the Vikings’ new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown stretching back to Maye’s high school days:

I don’t think the Vikings want to trade Jefferson. … At the very least, until a Jefferson deal gets done, I’m keeping an open mind about the star wideout’s future.

The Vikings would notably be holding onto the No. 11 selection as part of this trade, which would allow them to get creative in replacing Jefferson. They could move forward with Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson as the bulk of their receiving corps, but would they want to draft Brian Thomas Jr. there? Would they try to move up to No. 8 to grab Rome Odunze? It’s tough to look at any wide receiver and expect him to turn into Jefferson, but the Vikings could draft Drake Maye at No. 3 and then surround him with two first-round picks at wide receiver, Aaron Jones at running back and Hockenson at tight end.

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Facing Pressure to Land Franchise QB

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings

GettyGeneral Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings are in a seemingly desperate position to land a franchise quarterback in the upcoming draft, as outlined by Dianna Russini of The Athletic.

“The GM under the most pressure in this draft is the Vikings’ Kwesi Adofo-Mensah,” Russini wrote on April 22. “Three years into his regime, his Vikings are 20-14 but without a playoff win. After letting Kirk Cousins walk — despite his head coach’s public desire to keep the QB — Adofo-Mensah is running out of time. This might be the best opportunity he has to add a franchise-altering passer.”

That pressure could lead to moving on from Jefferson for the right player, especially considering the contract the receiver is likely to sign in the near future. Jefferson is entering the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, worth $19.7 million. However, the Vikings will probably need to offer the wideout a record-setting extension to keep him in Minnesota long-term.

Jefferson is worth the money, but his will be an onerous paycheck for a rebuilding franchise. The best circumstances to move off such a deal is to include the receiver in a trade for the team’s QB of the future, which Minnesota may have a chance to do later this week.

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