Do the Vikings Really Need to Trade Justin Jefferson To Get Their Quarterback?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a familiar situation for Minnesota Vikings fans. You’re trying to avoid your surroundings, so you log on to social media. You open TikTok, and the first video you see is from SuperMegaChiefsMark69.

“It’s time for my top five trade scenarios for the NFL Draft,” the narrator says. “No. 1, the Minnesota Vikings trade up with the New England Patriots. They give up the No. 11, No. 23 pick in this year’s draft….”

Vikings fans see this and say, “Hell yeah!” Trading up to get Minnesota’s franchise quarterback seems like a great idea. But, unfortunately, SuperMegaChiefsMark69 isn’t done.

“…and Justin Jefferson,” the narrator continues. “We gonna get J.J. on the Patriots, and they’ll trade him to the Chiefs because he’s got to play with Patrick Mahomes.”

You flip through several videos, and they’re all the same. While no one seems to understand the salary cap, they also seem to believe that Jefferson is a necessary throw-in to trade up in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The premise is simple. A plethora of quarterback prospects has made it a good year to select a signal caller, and the wisest course of action for the top teams in the draft is to explore all options to make a pick. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for them if a team got crazy and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

It makes you wonder: Do the Vikings really have to trade Jefferson to get their guy?

The Jefferson rumors began when the megastar couldn’t agree on a contract extension before the season. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio fanned the flames by suggesting that Jefferson could become available if Jordan Addison was successful in his rookie year and that dealing their top weapon could be the way to acquire the quarterback of their dreams.

“[Addison’s] the new J.J., and then in comes the franchise quarterback,” Florio said during an interview with KFAN’s Paul Allen last September. “I don’t care how good your receiver is. It doesn’t do anything without a quarterback to get him the ball.”

A lot has happened since those comments. The Vikings went 7-10, and Addison had a strong rookie year. Shortly after the Super Bowl, the Jefferson trade steam returned when FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd mentioned a hypothetical trade that sent the 11th-overall pick, Minnesota’s 2025 first-round pick, and Jefferson to the New England Patriots to acquire the third-overall pick in the draft.

“What does New England desperately need?” Cowherd asked. “A playmaker. Justin Jefferson – switch picks. I’ll give you next year’s [first-round pick] and [Jefferson] to go from 11 to 3. Because they’ve already got Jordan Addison, they’ve got the tight end they like [T.J. Hockenson]. They’ve got skill players. Next year’s [No.] 1 and Justin Jefferson to move up to the No. 3 spot to get your quarterback.”

Cowherd’s deal seemed insane, but it has some merit. The salary cap had the highest increase since the league implemented it in 1994, and the Vikings lost their safety net when Kirk Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

Both moves were like pouring gasoline on a fire. Smoke bellowed as more trade rumors blazed. Many people theorized that Jefferson grew angrier with each move and that signing Sam Darnold was the final straw.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah told reporters he hadn’t even thought about trading Jefferson, but Vikings fans have heard this before. In 2013, Rick Spielman said he wasn’t trading Percy Harvin before dealing him to the Seattle Seahawks. In 2020, Spielman said he wasn’t trading Stefon Diggs before sending him to the Buffalo Bills in the deal that brought Jefferson to Minnesota.

Also, would Adofo-Mensah be doing his job if he told the truth? A general manager needs to think of all scenarios and outcomes, and trading Jefferson would fall into the same galaxy-brain approach that Adofo-Mensah has been discussing since the Vikings hired him in 2022.

If Jefferson’s contract demands grew to the point where they would cause long-term damage, it would benefit Adofo-Mensah to seek other options. It would also make Jefferson the ultimate trump card to any other team looking to trade into the top five because it would immediately make a deal look that much better.

After losing Cousins, this nuclear option would clear the way for a full reset. Trading Jefferson for picks and cap flexibility over the next two seasons could be appealing — especially if the Vikings kept their 2025 first-rounder, which could be a top-10 pick in this scenario.

However, the odds of hitting on a quarterback are greater with Jefferson.

One of the biggest reasons the Vikings are being aggressive is that they feel they have an elite infrastructure for a rookie quarterback. They have a strong play-caller in Kevin O’Connell and a solid offensive line. Addison and Hockenson are elite targets, but nobody commands more attention than Jefferson.

Think about how easy it would be to tell Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy to “throw it to 18” anytime they’re in trouble. Also, imagine how much space Jefferson opens up as the offense’s focal point. Addison had a great rookie year. But he could have put up even better numbers if Jefferson hadn’t missed half the season with a hamstring injury.

In many ways, trading Jefferson would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You would have enough infrastructure for a rookie quarterback to succeed, but you might rob yourself of an elite offense.

There’s also nothing to suggest that paying Jefferson would ruin long-term flexibility. According to Over The Cap, Minnesota will have $102.4 million in cap space in 2025. While the Vikings will use some of that money to extend Christian Darrisaw, they could also keep Jefferson and still have the money to go hard in free agency next spring.

In this scenario, the Vikings could pocket the picks and take Michael Penix Jr., trying to create the same infrastructure that turned Brock Purdy into a franchise quarterback. However, the Vikings also want to go big, which puts them in a delicate situation.

They could trade Jefferson and decide to go on the rebuild that has been years in the making. But doing so isn’t a necessity and gives the Vikings plenty of flexibility (and social media creators headaches) as they head into the draft.

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