Vikings

Minnesota Is Primed To Make the Jefferson Extension A Bargain

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are expected to ink Justin Jefferson’s monster contract extension, finally locking up the megastar wide receiver as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. With the selection of a rookie quarterback presumably imminent, the Vikings will have the financial flexibility to retain the young core that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have begun building around.

Jefferson’s deal will reset the receiver market and become the standard CeeDee Lamb and Ja’Marr Chase use in their negotiations.

Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams lead the wide receiver market. After being traded from Kansas City, Hill signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the Miami Dolphins, and Adams signed a five-year, $140 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

All three play at a relatively similar level. However, Adams and Hill are six and seven years older than Jefferson, respectively.

 

OverTheCap set Jefferson’s at $27,592,000 during Week 3, its peak in 2023. It dropped after his injury in Week 4, and multiple weeks with no provided value distorted the data significantly, leaving Jefferson’s perceived value and average per year (APY) at $9,253,000. While the OverTheCap team does excellent work, they would be the first to acknowledge that Jefferson will receive more compensation than $9 million in APY.

Jefferson’s deal will look to extend beyond the market-leading APY of $30 million. Still, the percentage of the cap that the deal will account for will eventually have a similar effect to Kirk Cousins’ original contract in Minnesota. When Cousins signed his deal, it became maligned for two reasons. The deal was considered an overpay for a quarterback who hadn’t experienced any team success, and it was the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history.

While the outlook around contracts has changed, and Jefferson’s contract won’t be fully guaranteed, the Cousins deal ended up being favorable for the Vikings. Cousins’ original deal never accounted for more than 15.1% of the cap, and Jefferson’s deal could work out similarly.

The Jacksonville Jaguars reset the market by signing wide receiver Christian Kirk to a four-year, $72 million contract before the 2022 season. It shocked most of the NFL world and affected most high-end receiver negotiations, with Kirk suddenly outpacing higher performers in total salary.

While Kirk’s performance hasn’t necessarily validated that deal, the message is clear. When the Vikings get Jefferson’s signature on a deal that makes him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, they can create substantial long-term value by pushing for the longest possible contract.

With a continuous increase in the salary cap forecasted, barring any major world events, the amount of money committed to Jefferson remains static, providing greater value over time. With a projected flat salary cap increase of roughly 10% per year (the average increase from 2022, 2023, and 2024), the salary cap would reach a nearly unthinkable $426 million in 2029, with values over the next half-decade of:

  • 2025: $282,923,660
  • 2026: $313,434,848
  • 2027: $347,216,048
  • 2028: $384,637,727
  • 2029: $426,143,335

If Jefferson were to sign a four-year extension with a base value of $130 million for an APY of $32.5 million, the percentages of the projected cap would look similarly to:

  • 2025: 0.11487197641%
  • 2026: 0.10368981052%
  • 2027: 0.0936016644%
  • 2028: 0.08449509166%

That would position the Vikings to have Jefferson under contract in his physical prime for under 15% of the cap in all four years. While the length of the deal is entirely up to Jefferson and the Vikings, the sticker shock of $32.5 million in APY suddenly becomes a lot more palatable when interpreted through the context of cap percentage.

Looking at T.J. Hockenson’s extension could provide insight into how the Vikings may structure Jefferson’s market-resetting extension. When Hockenson signed his extension, it made him the highest-paid tight end in football, with a $16.5 million APY. The deal was backloaded, with increasing cap hits in correlation with the dramatic increase in available cap space after the 2024 season and projected increases to the salary cap ceiling.

Jefferson’s deal will be Minnesota’s largest for multiple years, barring any massive, surprise free-agent contracts. The flexibility provided by a rookie quarterback will allow Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Rob Brzezinski, and Co. to structure Hockenson, Jefferson, and Darrisaw’s deals around each other as the primary in-house retention targets.

As for the Jefferson deal projection, expect something like the aforementioned four-year, $130 million contract with incentives for playing time, team performance, and individual accomplishments, such as yardage milestones or awards.

Regarding guaranteed money, something like $62.4 million may suffice for the megastar, also breaking Hill’s GTD mark by 5%. This deal would tie Jefferson to Minnesota through his age-27 season. It would also allow him the flexibility to re-sign again in Minnesota after his fellow competitors push the wide receiver market higher or the ability to enter free agency at 28.

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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