Justin Jefferson’s Future With Vikings In Question After Vikings Reach Ceiling

Cousins, Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after scoring a touchdown with teammate Kirk Cousins in the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelersat U.S. Bank Stadium on December 09, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings pieced together their best season on paper since 2017 by winning 13 games. However, this team remains stuck in playoff purgatory — which could impact Justin Jefferson‘s willingness to stay in Minnesota.

Colin Cowherd addressed the state of the Vikings franchise, which has won just one playoff game in five years with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cousins the quarterback is not the reason Minnesota lost to the New York Giants in the wild-card round. However, Cousins’ contract is the reason the Vikings defense has atrophied into the league’s worst unit — a problem that cannot be remedied anytime soon with a veteran quarterback contract on the cap sheet.

That leaves Minnesota stuck with a team that can be good every year, but not great. And Jefferson, much like Stefon Diggs, may have seen the Vikings’ ceiling and consider his future elsewhere, Cowherd said on a recent airing of The Herd.

“What I would worry about… Stefon Diggs said, ‘Get me out of here.’  I’d worry about Justin Jefferson saying, ‘Get me out of here I don’t want to waste my career I’ve got five more great years what’s the point of this.’ ” Cowherd said. “Stefon Diggs just said get me to a star quarterback, that’s what I worry about.”

 Vikings Must Address Future of QB Kirk Cousins This Offseason

With the Vikings expected to make Jefferson the league’s highest-paid wide receiver in the offseason, Minnesota must address what to do with the only higher-paid and more important position in football at quarterback.

Cousins has one more year on his current contract, and although he surely was playing his way to a new contract by leading eight game-winning drives in the regular season, coming up empty-handed in the postseason brought Minnesota’s prospects back down to reality.

The Vikings had a historically fortunate season and made timely plays to come away with several improbable victories. But unlike other 13-win teams, Minnesota was never a true contender.

The roster needs considerable reconstruction but that won’t change until the Vikings get out from under a veteran quarterback contract and reinvest in the rest of the roster.

Minnesota ranks 29th in available resources this offseason and is currently $8 million over the salary cap, per Spotrac. The Vikings are expected to shed a few bloated veteran contracts at other positions, but that won’t create the cap space needed to rehaul the entire defense.

New Vikings Regime Hampered By Kirk Cousins Contract

The new regime doubled down on the team it inherited from Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman and gave fans the show they deserved for the past two seasons by instilling a positive culture that helped produce one of the most exciting seasons in NFL history.

However, they ultimately failed in delivering at the very least a return to the NFC Championship.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell maximized the past regime’s roster, but the only way to break past its ceiling is to start at the top of the cap sheet.

Cousins carries the sixth-highest cap hit of $36.2 million next season and is likely locked in for a final year in Minnesota unless the Vikings can find a team, who much like they thought in 2017, is a quarterback away from winning it all.

Otherwise, Minnesota needs to find a developmental quarterback or a cheaper free agent in the 2024 offseason that O’Connell can be entrusted to maximize — much like he did with Cousins this season.

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