A New Wrinkle in Justin Jefferson’s Contract Saga

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For 17 months, the Minnesota Vikings’ front office and Justin Jefferson’s representation have worked toward finalizing a mammoth extension that will attach the phenom playmaker to the purple team’s depth chart for the long haul.

A New Wrinkle in Justin Jefferson’s Contract Saga

The deal may be imminent — the Vikings have never been shy about committing to the deal — but one element might be on the menu and holding the contract back, at least at the moment.

Justin Jefferson
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According to ESPN, the kicker is whether Jefferson can be afforded the largest non-quarterback salary in NFL history. Kevin Seifert wrote this week, “While there is every expectation that a deal will get done, it will hinge on how close the Vikings will go to make Jefferson the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL, a distinction currently held by 49ers pass-rusher Bosa.”

All things Vikings are currently dominated by two talking points: the identity of the QB1 in 2024 — Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy — and Jefferson’s eventual contract extension.

Justin Jefferson Has 1
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Seifert added, “The Vikings have been unequivocal about their intent to get a deal done with Jefferson, and talks have been underway for more than a year despite rumors about his potential availability in a trade.”

The aforementioned Bosa earns $34 million per season, so for Jefferson to pass his humongous deal, Minnesota would have to offer something in the neighborhood of four years and $140 million. For now, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown leads the pack at wide receiver, earning $32 million per season.

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Meanwhile, some believe Jefferson is waiting on CeeDee Lamb’s extension to process. Lamb and Jefferson were scooped out of the 2020 NFL Draft, and while Jefferson’s production is superior, Lamb could outlast Jefferson’s contract extension announcement and “beat” Jefferson by a few pennies. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said last week on SportsCenter, “CeeDee Lamb appears to be waiting on Justin Jefferson, really the whole league is waiting on him to get done. He could be the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league when it’s all said and done for Minnesota.”

This is how it often works with player contracts, as the market constantly resets. In theory, if Lamb signs down in Dallas for $33 million per season, for example, well, Jefferson can grab $34 million and claim the status of the league’s highest-paid wideout.

“So, if he’s making $34 million a year, and you’re Lamb, you don’t want to jump out yet you want to wait for him to do that and then circle back with Dallas,” Fowler added.

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The Seifert theory — Jefferson desiring the largest non-quarterback deal ever — and Fowler’s musings about Jefferson + Lamb could coexist. And that would also explain the “delay” for Jefferson’s deal.

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Dan Graziano claimed Jefferson’s extension could bleed into late summer because Joe Burrow’s giant extension encountered a similar timetable, and Jefferson + Burrow share an agent, Brian Ayrault.

Perhaps the fix is to pay Jefferson $35 million annually and put pen to paper mere moments after Lamb signs in Dallas — sometime in August.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.