The Vikings ‘Franchise Cornerstone’ from a National Lens

The Vikings 'Franchise Cornerstone' from a National Lens
Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson

Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson is the 14th highest-paid player on the team’s 2022 roster and the 62nd highest-paid WR in football, but he’s the current face of the franchise.

Jefferson arrived to the Vikings in 2020 after veteran wide receiver Stefon Diggs wiggled his way out of Twin Cities, dismayed with the team’s run-first approach on offense. Diggs was packaged to the Buffalo Bills — where he fit in marvelously — while the Vikings received the picks that netted Jefferson, Camryn Bynum (FS), Zach Davidson (TE), Janarius Robinson (EDGE), and Kenny Willekes (EDGE).

From the moment the Diggs-Jefferson trade went down, Jefferson leads the NFL in receiving yards (3,016) and has tabulated more receiving yards than any player in NFL history through a player’s first two seasons. Jefferson’s 17 touchdowns rank fifth all-time in the same metric.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 05: Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after a catch during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 05, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Accordingly, Jefferson is considered the face of the Vikings and a Top 3 wide receiver leaguewide. From a national lens, Bleacher Report even called Jefferson a ‘franchise cornerstone.’

Gary Davenport from Bleacher Report selected just 10 players in the NFL to achieve ‘franchise cornerstone’ status, and Jefferson checked in at #10. Davenport defended the Jefferson choice, “With the 21st pick in the 2020 draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor. One pick later, the Minnesota Vikings went to the wideout well, too, drafting LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Eagles fans have been kicking themselves ever since. While Reagor has done next to nothing, Jefferson has been a force from the moment he stepped on the field.”

The Vikings have the financial advantage of Jefferson’s rookie contract for three more seasons. However, extension talks will warm up next spring, and the LSU alumnus is expected to fetch $30-$35 million per season by the time his next contract kicks in (2025). The current highest-paid wide receiver in the league is Tyreek Hill at $30 million annually.

Moreover, Jefferson will get a glimpse of life outside the run-first offense that the aforementioned Diggs despised. Minnesota fired head coach Mike Zimmer in January, shifting toward an era of youth and analytics embraced by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. In 2021, O’Connell’s Los Angeles Rams targeted Cooper Kupp a gaudy 191 times, which could be an indication that a similar menu is afoot for Jefferson.

Justin Jefferson Ranked Strangely Low in PFF's Rankings of WRs
Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

The rest of the cornerstones according to Bleacher Report?

  1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
  2. Josh Allen (Bills)
  3. Joe Burrow (Bengals)
  4. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
  5. Justin Herbert (Chargers)
  6. T.J. Watt (Steelers)
  7. Myles Garrett (Browns)
  8. Nick Bosa (49ers)
  9. Quenton Nelson (Colts)
  10. Justin Jefferson (Vikings)

Jefferson turned 23 last month.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).