What Does Justin Jefferson Need To See Before Signing An Extension?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie minicamp opens on Friday, giving Minnesota Vikings fans their first look at J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner in Purple and Gold. Organized team activities start 10 days later, and whether Justin Jefferson will be there is unclear. Last year, Jefferson skipped the voluntary OTA practices and mandatory minicamp while trying to work out a contract extension.

“I had a lot of stuff going on,” Jefferson said last June. “They didn’t really force me to come back, so it didn’t seem like I was missing too much. They definitely wanted me back here, (I) definitely wanted to be back here, but had a lot of stuff going on…with marketing and endorsement deals, did a lot of endorsement stuff over the offseason.”

Everyone desires proximity to Jefferson, one of the NFL’s most personable and electric athletes. The Vikings have said they would like to keep Jefferson around long-term. They didn’t shop him around during the draft, even though he may have netted them a top pick. Why would they? Jefferson should ease McCarthy’s transition to the NFL.

Furthermore, the Vikings added defensive talent in the offseason, signing Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman in free agency, and acquiring Turner in the draft. Brian Flores should have enough talent to build around, preventing Jefferson and Sam Darnold or McCarthy from having to run up the score to keep Minnesota in games.

However, Minnesota’s success hinges on more than just adding new talent. The team’s ability to secure a contract extension for Jefferson is a critical factor. The Vikings are banking on McCarthy to become a franchise quarterback, which could catapult them into Super Bowl contention. Having a player of Jefferson’s caliber, who has already shattered Randy Moss’ franchise receiving records, is the best assurance the Vikings can provide to ensure McCarthy reaches his full potential.

Jefferson can only be so much help in McCarthy’s rookie season when McCarthy is learning football fundamentals and Kevin O’Connell’s complicated offense. Before the draft, O’Connell described his relationship with his rookie quarterback as a marriage. McCarthy needs a similarly close bond with Jefferson to give himself the best opportunity to succeed at the next level. Therefore, re-signing Jefferson is Minnesota’s No. 1 priority right now.

Adofo-Mensah described Jefferson as the “king lynchpin” of Minnesota’s plans and said he has open lines of communication with Jefferson’s camp. “We continue to have great dialogue,” he said 10 days after the draft and described the process as “ongoing.”

The Vikings tried to sign Jefferson to an extension last season but were unsuccessful. They would have liked to have had the certainty of knowing that Jefferson would be in town for the foreseeable future.

However, Jefferson also assumed some risk. After recording 4,825 yards in three full seasons, injuries held him to 10 games and 1,074 yards last season. He suffered a hamstring injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 and took a hit that landed him in the hospital against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13.

“There’s a reason why (extensions) don’t normally get done two years early,” Adofo-Mensah said last year. “And I’ll kind of leave it at that. … There are just reasons why it’s harder to do at that (point).”

Deadlines get things done. OTAs begin on May 20, and voluntary minicamp runs from June 4 to June 6. The Vikings drafted their quarterback of the future and a second edge rusher. They bolstered the defense, have Jordan Addison coming off a strong rookie year, and T.J. Hockenson under contract. Minnesota is a plan. Soon, we’ll get to see what Jefferson thinks of it.

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