How Can Vikings Afford Hockenson and Jefferson? It’s Quite Easy.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings announced tight end T.J. Hockenson’s lavish extension Thursday, tipping the financial ledger at four years and $68.5 million. The deal instantly tabs Hockenson as the wealthiest tight end in NFL history and binds him to the Vikings roster through the 2027 season.

Next up? Justin Jefferson.

How Can Vikings Afford Hockenson and Jefferson? It’s Quite Easy.

For seven months, the Vikings ownership, front office, and Jefferson personally have stated an extension is afoot for the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. There is no mystery, ambiguity, or “will they actually do it?” regarding Jefferson’s long-term future with the Vikings. Everybody wants the extension penned.

Afford Hockenson
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

So, how the hell will the Vikings afford to maintain Hockenson on the roster as the most affluent TE ever, pay Jefferson as the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, and, by the way, pay Christian Darrisaw one year from now?

It’s rather straightforward Kirk Cousins won’t be the Vikings quarterback for much longer, and when he leaves, the “next guy” will play on a smallish contract.

Have the Vikings Paid Kirk
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins currently earns $35 million per season, and that somehow turned into chump change for a passer who delivers 30+ touchdowns annually. As early as a year ago, Cousins was savaged for inflicting that average annual value (AAV) on the Vikings salary cap. Now, he’s the league’s 14th highest-paid QB per AAV, a seeding that will slip to 15th when Joe Burrow is soon extended.

Still, $35 million per year may be too much for a roster containing Hockenson’s mega deal, Jefferson’s impending cash, and Darrisaw in 2024.

Kirk Cousins Evidently
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Once Jefferson’s extension is completed, his showstopping money will kick in at the onset of the 2025 season. He has two more years on his rookie contract, and the Vikings already [and obviously] opted in for Year Five of the Jefferson experience. That leaves 2023 and possibly 2024 as the “final” two years when Minnesota can have the best of both worlds paying Cousins $35+ million each year and keeping weapons like Hockenson and Jefferson at his side.

In 2025, the Hockenson + Jefferson funds will absorb a hefty chunk of the salary cap, and Darrisaw’s soon-to-be otherworldly extension will join the fun in 2026. By that time probably the 2025 season the Vikings will probably employ a QB1 not named Kirk Cousins, and that man’s deal will likely be a rookie contract.

Lottery Ticket QB
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Let’s fast forward to 2026 when the Vikings pay Hockenson, Jefferson, and Darrisaw top dollar. Unknown-rookie-QB-guy will play on a rookie deal, and Hockenson-Jefferson-Darrisaw will account for about $75 million of the team’s budget. The salary cap will be about $275 million by that time, meaning the Vikings “big three” on offense, at least per monetary investment, will account for 27% of the budget.

Seventy-three percent to fill out “the rest” is more than reasonable. Young players will have emerged by then, new free agents will be signed, and Cousins will be 38 years old somewhere.

The Vikings can afford large extensions now and with Darrisaw next year because the off-ramp for Cousins is nearing construction’s end. And then the new quarterback probably a young one will have tremendous weapons in Hockenson, Jefferson, and Darrisaw to succeed.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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