Vikings Predicted to Shelve Justin Jefferson for Season

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Hold onto your hats, Minnesota Vikings fans. You’re probably not going to like this.

Minnesota faces major decisions over the next few weeks that will impact the franchise’s composition and trajectory for years to come, and the best decision available is probably to try and be as bad as possible for the remainder of the season.

Benjamin Solak of The Ringer appeared on the Wednesday, October 11 edition of The Bill Simmons Podcast and predicted that the Vikings will lean hard into the misery of their 1-4 start by sidelining wide receiver Justin Jefferson for the remainder of the year, trading quarterback Kirk Cousins and doing everything in their power to land a top QB prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft.

“I think the Vikings are a really good candidate for the first-overall pick. Their general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah … he is an analytics guy,” Solak said. “Justin Jefferson is on IR with a hamstring injury now for at least four weeks. Hamstring injuries don’t just go away man. I mean, you don’t just get over a hammy. It’s a quick-twitch muscle and a quick-twitch position. That’s a hard injury to deal with. I wouldn’t be surprised if they shelf Jefferson, they trade Kirk Cousins, they really tank this thing and they try to go get a new quarterback this upcoming draft.”

Justin Jefferson, Fans Likely to Be Unhappy if Vikings Choose to Tank

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Tanking the season isn’t a pill that will be easy for fans to swallow after the Vikings finished 13-4 in 2022, won the NFC North Division and hosted a playoff game.

Minnesota has been arguably the most competitive 1-4 team in recent NFL history, their losses coming by an average of just 5 points outing. The team is a Cousins’ end-zone interception against the Los Angeles Chargers and a questionable pass-interference reversal against the Kansas City Chiefs away from a 3-2 record. But football is often a game of bounces, very few of which have gone the Vikings’ way through nearly a third of the season.

Jefferson isn’t liable to take the notion of tanking well either, especially if it means he sits for the remainder of the year after leading the NFL in receiving with the most yards ever amassed by a wideout through four games in league history (543). Head coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday that the team must “protect [Jefferson] from himself,” as he is “one of the most ultra-competitors” O’Connell has ever encountered across two decades in the NFL as a coach and a player.

Shelving Justin Jefferson Best Decision for All Parties

Justin Jefferson

GettyMinnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

But in the end, an extended absence for Jefferson is probably best for all parties involved. He is already extension-eligible and in line to sign the richest contract ever for a receiver. The team affording him more than ample time to get his hamstring right to avoid a recurrence of the injury is not only the best decision for Jefferson’s long-term health and the team’s long-term prospects, it’s the best decision for Jefferson’s bank account as well.

The Vikings may have needed to worry about upsetting Jefferson by moving Cousins ahead of the October 31 trade deadline, but that is less of a concern without the All-Pro wideout on the field for at least the next four outings. Minnesota plays divisional road games against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers over the next three weeks, with a home contest against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers sandwiched in between them.

A 2-1 record over that stretch is possible, but oddsmakers would probably lean toward a 1-2 mark as the more likely outcome considering the Vikings’ season-long issue with turnovers compounded by the lack of Jefferson’s presence in all of those games. The trip to Lambeau Field takes place two days ahead of the trade deadline, and a 1-2 record over the next three weeks would place Minnesota at 2-6 heading into the second half of the season.

At that point, going in the tank for QB Caleb Williams of USC or QB Drake Maye of North Carolina would clearly be the appropriate strategy. As such, shelving Jefferson for the year and moving Cousins to either the New York Jets or Atlanta Falcons for a meaningful draft asset is the correct long-term strategy for the franchise.

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