At only 23 years old, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already among the best at his position in the NFL.
The former LSU standout is coming off an historic three-year stretch to open his career after Minnesota made him a first-round pick back in 2020.
Jefferson has earned three Pro Bowl trips and won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award after an absolutely brilliant 2023 season.
It just so happens that Jefferson is now eligible for an extension for the first time in his career this offseason. Once signed, it will represent the largest contract for a non-quarterback in NFL history.
The question now is when Jefferson and the Vikings will come together to make sweet music at the negotiating table. There’s also an open question about how Kirk Cousins and Minnesota’s quarterback situation could play a role in these talks.
“The length of Jefferson’s deal would correlate with more than his next bite at the financial apple. It would also connect with the one issue that sources around the league say could bog down these negotiations: The Vikings’ plan at quarterback for the timeframe of Jefferson’s contract.”ESPN’s Kevin Seifert on Justin Jefferson contract talks
For someone of Jefferson’s stature, it makes perfect sense to take into account aspects outside of pure finances. What Minnesota plans to do at quarterback moving forward will have a direct impact on him.
As of right now, the Vikings are linked to Cousins through just the 2023 season. But it stands to reason that they’ll work out a contract extension with the veteran quarterback in order to lower his astronomical $36.25 million cap hit for the 2023 season. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Co. are already in cost-cutting mode after releasing former All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks.
How does all of this correlate with the Jefferson contract extension? It’s actually pretty simple in the grand scheme of things.
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Justin Jefferson contract extension part of a larger plan
There’s an argument that Jefferson should settle for a shorter-term extension. He’s only 23 years old and has not yet hit his prime.
By going with a three or four-year extension, Jefferson would be eligible for a second extension when the wide receiver is actually still in his prime. Most wide receivers can’t say that around the league. As someone who has put up historic numbers thus far in his career, this makes perfect sense.
- Justin Jefferson stats (2020-22): 324 receptions, 4,825 yards, 25 TD, 68.1% catch rate
Last season saw Jefferson lead the league in receptions (128) and yards (1,809). He’s a generational talent and has continued to prove it on a near never-ending loop. Likely set to make well north of $30 million on an extension this time around, Jefferson can maximize his career earnings by making it a shorter-term deal.
Related: What a Justin Jefferson contract extension might look like
As for the Vikings’ quarterback situation, there could actually be some internal pushback about extending Kirk Cousins beyond the 2023 season. While he’s put up great numbers in Minneapolis, team-wide success has not been the name of the game.
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Whether that leads to the Vikings going in another direction over the long term remains to be seen. And while it would impact Jefferson’s stance in talks, Minnesota’s brass is ready to sell the farm to retain the wide receiver long-term.
“I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team. When you have guys like that in your building, (you) try everything you can to not let them out.”Adofo-Mensah on Justin Jefferson
What we do know is that Jefferson and Cousins share a great on-field relationship. But at 35 years old, the quarterback will not be in Minnesota as long as his wide receiver. That’s what makes the quarterback situation in the Twin Cities important when it comes to Justin Jefferson contract talks.