Justin Jefferson is Standing Out for Both the Right and Wrong Reasons

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
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A pair of games have led to a pair of standout performances for Justin Jefferson.

The fine folks in The Gopher State are accustomed to seeing #18 put together dominant games, but consecutive 150-yard efforts are reason to marvel. Entering Year 4, Jefferson appears to still be taking steps forward with his game, a terrifying reality for every team except the one that calls the Twin Cities home.

The Reasons Why Justin Jefferson is Standing Out

Part of the concern, though, is that Minnesota didn’t get a deal done with Jefferson.

During the offseason, there was a pile of attention devoted to completing the Jefferson extension. Co-owner Mark Wilf, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and head coach Kevin O’Connell all said multiple times that putting together a long-term deal was in the works. The player, for his part, consistently expressed his desire to stick around.

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) reacts after a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Going into Week 3 of the 2023 season, Justin Jefferson doesn’t have a contract beyond 2024. It’s a risky move from the team.

Of course, not having a deal in place right now doesn’t mean one won’t get done. In fact, Dustin Baker recently relayed some words from Darren Wolfson from The Mackey and Judd Show: “I still see a deal getting done. Yes, the optics suggest this is now being put off until March, and yes, there hasn’t been any new dialogue, is my understanding, but I’m not necessarily dismissing the idea of something potentially happening in-season. Both sides are still motivated to get a deal done.”

So, not a closed door but, rather, one that’s slightly ajar.

Crazy Trade Idea
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The issue is simply that the more Jefferson stands out, the more he stands out. Allow me to explain.

On the field, Jefferson is standing out due to his outstanding performances. He has been doing so since his rookie year, but he manages to keep getting better even though he’s already the league’s best wide receiver. In another sense, though, he is standing out for the wrong reason: not being extended by his current team even though he’s a special talent.

Consider some of his peers from the 2020 NFL Draft:

  • Joe Burrow: 5-year, $275,000,000 extension
  • Andrew Thomas: 5-year, $117,500,000 extension
  • Justin Herbert: 5-year, $262,500,000 extension
  • Jalen Hurts: 5-year, $255,000,000 extension

All of the players listed above are cornerstones for their franchises. Jefferson belongs among them as an elite talent who is foundational to where the Vikings are currently and where they hope to go in the future.

NFL's Top QBs after Week 1: PFF, DVOA, EPA+CPOE Formula
Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports.

At 0-2, the Vikings are experiencing a start to the season that satisfies nobody. The failure, though, can hardly be blamed on their WR1. Yes, the fumble reaching for the endzone was bad, but it’s hard to fault him too much given that he was so close to scoring. And, of course, Jefferson has otherwise been nearly flawless.

Getting a long-term deal done for Justin Jefferson should still be atop the priority pile in Minnesota. Completing a contract would allow the talented pass catcher to stand out for just the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.