Stop the Panic about Justin Jefferson
Folks are antsy about Justin Jefferson’s future in Minnesota or at least about the when of his contract extension.
The 24-year-old is eligible to prolong his stay in Minnesota, an inevitability chirped about since the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New York Giants in the postseason five months ago.
Stop the Panic about Justin Jefferson
After that loss, Jefferson was asked about staying with the Vikings, and he responded, “I will be wherever I’m wanted. If they want me here, I’m here.”
His confirmation of plans to remain a Viking caused a sigh of relief, and the offseason proceeded as if Jefferson would soon be glued to the organization for the long term. Fast forward to June, and ink has yet to hit paper on the deal.
On Thursday, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio began questioning why the Vikings are ‘waiting so long’ to finalize the extension. He wrote, “Plenty of teams drag their feet, however. Because they can. If the player doesn’t take a stand, the player doesn’t get his money. And Jefferson has made it clear he won’t be taking a stand. There’s plenty of noise out there that the Vikings will wait to extend Jefferson.”
Jefferson’s next contract is expected to command $30-$35 million per season.
“They have a rare talent in Jefferson. They should be treating him that way. There’s no reason not to. And if/when they wake up one day with another Randy Moss or Percy Harvin or Stefon Diggs who end up being sent elsewhere for one or more draft picks, the Vikings will have only themselves to blame. And, if that’s what happens, Vikings fans will just shrug and says, ‘It’s just another day in Purple Purgatory,'” Florio concluded.
And listen — it’s June 23rd of the offseason, two years before Jefferson is scheduled to hit free agency. No matter what, the man is contractually committed to the Vikings in 2023 and 2024. That cannot be undone.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in January, just two days after his club was prematurely bounced from the playoffs, that anything contract-related to Jefferson was champagne problems. “I wouldn’t use the word challenge. You got a special player, a special person. Those aren’t problems. Or at least those are champagne problems,” Adofo-Mensah replied when asked about the feasibility of a long-term deal.
He finished the response, “So, we’ll start there. We’ve had initial dialogue with him, his agent. All those things we get back to that in the planning, but again it really starts from the player, the person, and we’ll work on solutions from there on.”
Then in April, head coach Kevin O’Connell chatted at length with The Athletic, and when asked about Jefferson’s looming extension, the message was consistent, “There’s no question. All of our organization is excited about having Justin Jefferson on our team for a really long time. Knowing what that’s going to mean from a numbers standpoint and all those things is one thing, and that will all work itself out.”
“It’s the goal of having him as the legitimate best receiver in football on our team for as long as we can possibly have him. I think that’s really important,” O’Connell declared with no mystery whatsoever to his words.
Finally, at Vikings mandatory minicamp a week and a half ago, Jefferson mentioned his contract, “I don’t really see it as a cloud hanging over my head. At the end of the day, I’m just going to be myself, still going to be playing the same way. The contract comes with the game, but my agent handles that. I don’t.”
“The contract is not really something I’m really worrying about. It’s really about doing what I need to do to get this team to where we want to go,” he added.
Jefferson also explained he’d be at training camp in July with or without an extension.
Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes was drafted in 2017. His contract extension chatter — so, like, right now on the same timeline for Jefferson — began in the spring and summer of 2020. The Chiefs completed the deal with Mahomes on July 6th, 2020.
If the Chiefs waited until July with Mahomes, the Vikings can surely wait until July with Jefferson. With two full seasons to go before Jefferson’s contract expiration, decrying days and weeks sans an extension isn’t worth the anxiety.
Patience is a virtue.
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).