Justin Jefferson Makes Wise Decision on Minicamp, Unlike Danielle Hunter

Vikings Arrange Meeting with Top Receiver Prospect
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up wearing a shirt honoring Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin (3) before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Jefferson turns 24 years old this week, and he always has struck me as a player and person who is wise beyond his years. He demonstrated maturity this week by reporting to the Vikings mandatory minicamp despite not having his contract extension finalized. 

Justin Jefferson Makes Wise Decision on Minicamp, Unlike Danielle Hunter

Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, and Dalvin Cook — all multiple-time Pro Bowlers — did not participate in the voluntary OTAs that are part of the offseason program as they awaited resolution of their contract situations. For Cook, his six-year tenure as the Vikings top running back ended last Friday with his release due to his high cap number ($14.1 million) and his lower production in Coach Kevin O’Connell’s passing-dominant offense (6th ranked in passing last season while the run game was 28th).  

Jefferson Makes
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during 2023 Mandatory Minicamp. Jefferson won the 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year award and enters Year 4 as a pro in 2023.

Hunter decided not to show up for the minicamp, which makes him subject to being fined close to $50,000 for the two days he misses. I don’t think that’s a smart approach by him or his agent. I certainly understand Hunter not wanting to risk injury in practice sessions until he signs a new deal, but he could have reported and sat in on meetings and done walk-throughs. That’s what is termed a “hold-in,” and teams rarely fine players who do at least that much work in the mandatory minicamp. 

The team is installing a new defense under DC Brian Flores, and even though there’s plenty of time to catch up in training camp, it would show good faith on Hunter’s part to attend the minicamp and limit his involvement, especially in on-field work. 

Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFC linebacker Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings (99) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson made the right choice by reporting, attending meetings and, somewhat surprisingly, actually participating on a limited basis in practice as he ran routes against defenders with no contact and did some position drills. It’s very unlikely he will line up in the full-scale 11-on-11 drills with contact, and the team doesn’t expect that of him at this juncture. I know from experience that Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell appreciate his presence, creating a better feeling as negotiations continue. 

“I told him you can tell the energy and juice he brings when he’s in the building,” O’Connell said. “He’s in great shape, moving around, mentally really sharp. He was able to jump in and absorb the new things we’re doing as well as his role, which is a pretty special one in our offense. I continue to dialogue with Justin about his role and different routes.” 

Jefferson also took the high road in his media session at minicamp. “I love being around the team. I was very anxious to get back,” he said. “We want to win the Super Bowl this year, and it’s good to be back with the guys and back to normal football. I’m here to play football, and my agent handles the contract.” 

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at 2023 mandatory minicamp in Eagan. The Vikings won 13 games in O’Connell’s first season as head coach. He previously won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator in 2021.

As for Hunter’s situation, O’Connell was diplomatic in saying he thinks it’s solvable, and he spoke highly of Hunter as a player he respects and is important to the team. “I definitely see that as an outcome,” O’Connell said of his hope for a positive result of negotiations. “I want to be sensitive to allowing the process to play out for our team and Danielle.”  

Other Vikings OTA Observations: 

1. O’Connell spoke highly of Cook and said he hopes he lands in a good situation. He also praised the current Vikings running backs and their offseason work. “I feel really good about our running back room and great about where Alex is at and the talented guys behind Alex — Kene (Nwangwu), Ty (Chandler), and the rookie (DeWayne McBride).”  

Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Birmingham running back Dewayne McBride (RB15) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2. It was interesting to hear Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips talking positively about the wide receivers on the roster other than Jefferson and first-round pick Jordan Addison. He praised K.J. Osborn’s veteran leadership and all-around play while saying that Jalen Reagor is looking good with a full install as opposed to arriving late in training camp last season when it was tougher to learn the offense. 

In discussing last year’s sixth-round pick Jalen Nailor, Phillips said, “He’s a really good player. He shows up a lot with every opportunity he gets. He’s doing the right thing, being where he is supposed to be and having the athletic ability to make the play.”  

3. Phillips gave an update on the progress of fifth-round QB Jaren Hall in saying, “He’s got a lot to learn in a short time and he gets limited reps but he’s progressed really well so far. He’s learning to play in an NFL system, working on his footwork and tying his feet to the reads.” 

4. Josh Oliver — the Vikings’ free agent signee at tight end — continues to impress the coaches, as O’Connell mentioned last week, and Phillips said of the big tight end, “He’s a tough cover due to his size and catch radius. We’re excited about what he can do within the run game and the pass game, but his physical presence certainly is going to help us.”     

Around the NFL Observations: 

1. Former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had his moments in Minnesota when he would say and do unusual things, was not at Bills mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, prompting Coach Sean McDermott to say he was “very concerned” by Diggs skipping out. It’s reportedly not contract-related, and Diggs was very frustrated by the Bills’ inability to reach the Super Bowl in recent seasons. We’ll see how this plays out with a player who is not shy about letting people know how he feels about the team’s direction.  

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl