Vikings

Justin Jefferson Endorsed Minnesota's Direction By Signing An Extension

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In the week before Super Bowl LVI, Justin Jefferson told CBS Sports that he thought the Minnesota Vikings could win a championship with Kirk Cousins and “definitely wouldn’t mind him staying” in Minnesota. However, he understands the NFL “is a business.” Four days later, he watched his future coach and the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.

Kevin O’Connell served as Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator that season, and Jefferson was enamored with LA’s offense.

“I have been watching the Rams offense for a minute now. They get their playmakers the ball,” Jefferson told CBS Sports. “They have some tremendous plays. Cooper Kupp is wide open all the time. This is my first head coach that’s gonna be on the offensive side instead of the defensive side, so I’m happy.”

Cousins stayed on for the next two years. The Vikings ran it back and won 13 games in 2022, and Cousins was playing his best football before he got hurt against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. He rarely drove winning, but Cousins was good enough to run O’Connell’s offense and get Jefferson the ball.

O’Connell always effusively praised Cousins, but the NFL is a business. In the offseason, Cousins signed a four-year, $180 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons ($100 million), leaving the Vikings to enact their succession plan. Minnesota signed Sam Darnold to a one-year, $10 million contract and traded up to select J.J. McCarthy at 10th-overall.

On Monday morning, Jefferson signed a four-year, $140 million extension that will keep him in Minnesota until 2028. Jefferson’s $110 million guaranteed is the most guaranteed money in a wide receiver contract. His $35 million average annual value (AAV) passes Joey Bosa ($34 million), making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league.

“We are elated to sign Justin,” Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement. “From the moment I arrived in Minnesota, Justin has consistently proven to be one of the best players in the NFL on and off the field, and we are excited about having him as a cornerstone of our team for a long time to come. He is the living embodiment of our culture with his joyful dedication to process and our goals.”

Jefferson’s extension means that McCarthy will develop alongside Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jordan Addison until at least 2026. Jefferson has committed to the Vikings through his 20s, meaning he’s tacitly approving their plans. O’Connell believes that Darnold can run his offense until McCarthy is ready, and the organization feels their infrastructure and culture gives the former Michigan quarterback the best opportunity to succeed.

Still, the Vikings have established a unique dynamic by extending Jefferson. He is Minnesota’s franchise player, which is unique in a quarterback-driven league. It also creates pressure to win now in an increasingly competitive NFC North. Jordan Love looks like a franchise quarterback in Green Bay. The Detroit Lions won 12 games and reached the NFC Championship last year. And the Chicago Bears drafted Caleb Williams first-overall this year.

The Vikings are spending money like they expect to win despite the increased competition in the division. Jefferson is the league’s highest-paid receiver. Last offseason, Hockneson signed a four-year, $66 million extension that made him the league’s third-highest-paid tight end by AAV. They also traded up to draft Dallas Turner and signed Jonathan Greenard, Blake Cashman, and Andrew Van Ginkel to bolster the defense.

Minnesota’s first game isn’t until September 8, but we’ll get our first glimpse at its revamped roster when mandatory minicamp opens on Tuesday. Jefferson skipped the optional organized team activities but got his deal done before the league would fine him for missing practice.

“The time has finally come,” he said in an Instagram post. “The deal I’ve been waiting for since I was a little kid.”

Jefferson and the Vikings tried to work out an extension last season, but deals rarely get done two years before free agency. Jefferson could have played on his fifth-year option this season, and Minnesota could have franchise-tagged him to keep him off the market in 2025. However, Jefferson chose to sign an extension with the Vikings. By doing so, he endorsed their direction. He likes playing in O’Connell’s offense and believes they’ll have a quarterback good enough to run it.

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