Purple Rumor Mill: The Jefferson Update, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Broncos in the Way

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

VikingsTerritory’s Purple Rumor Mill is a two-day chronicle each week. All the week’s rumors are lassoed and plopped in two spots — articles on Saturday and Sunday — for review. Today is the February 24th edition.

Purple Rumor Mill: The Jefferson Update, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Broncos in the Way

Remember — rumors are rumors. What you read on weekends in these pieces is what the world is talking about pertaining to the Vikings, not necessarily items that will come to fruition.

Here’s the first batch of the week.

Rumor: There should really be no drama about Justin Jefferson’s upcoming extension.

Sean Murphy
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

handful of media members have speculated amid the last six weeks that the Vikings could ultimately trade Jefferson if he didn’t reach an extension with the club. Of course, that could be a grand endgame resolution, but the realism of such a maneuver is still only speculative.

Well, ESPN published an article Thursday that swats away Jefferson-related anxiety. Kevin Seifert wrote, “The Vikings are not playing hardball, and Jefferson has no reluctance about playing in Minnesota, multiple sources said during the 2023 season. Jefferson has publicly endorsed the return of free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, but the unsettled nature of the position has not been a central focus of the talks, either.”

Seifert added, “Jefferson has willingly answered questions for months about his ongoing contract negotiations. His genial replies have avoided alarming headlines, but a clear theme has emerged: From Jefferson’s perspective, there is no precedent to the deal he will eventually sign — with the Vikings or another team — because there is no precedent to what he’s produced during his first four NFL seasons. Understanding that mindset helps inform why — more than a year after Jefferson became eligible for an extension — there has been no new contract.”

So, the perceived hold-up involves the unprecedented nature of the extension; no wide receiver has ever played this well through his first four seasons in the NFL, and Jefferson wants to cash in.

There’s no reason to panic about Jefferson’s long-term future in Minnesota. It’s just a matter of when on the extension.

Rumor: Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting could be a Vikings’ free-agent target.

Another Intriguing Free
Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (0) exits the field after the Titans lost in overtime to the Indianapolis Colts at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. © Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

This rumor came from ESPN this week.

ESPN noted Sean Murphy-Bunting on its Top 50 free agents list, and at No. 38, Matt Bowen explained his would-be fit in Minnesota, “I originally had Murphy-Bunting to Arizona here, but I believe the Vikings will be seeking some corners for Brian Flores’ aggressive system, and he’d work well in Minnesota. With his long frame and fluid hips, Murphy-Bunting can challenge on the outside or match in blitz coverage. He has eight interceptions and 22 pass breakups over five pro seasons, with two picks in 2023 in Tennessee.”

Minnesota’s defense ranked 32nd in the NFL per completion percentage allowed in 2023, so the secondary either needs personnel repair or hope that existing players will mature and develop on the fly.

Murphy-Bunting to the Vikings makes sense, and he should be attainable for about $5 million per season.

Rumor: The Broncos, too, may be interested in J.J. McCarthy, complicating the Vikings’ draft plan.

for Vikings Rookie
December 31, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the pregame before the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game

KFAN’s Paul Allen lifted up the Denver Broncos as a possible McCarthy suitor, meaning the Vikings would have to snatch the Wolverine with its 11th pick and cancel any idea of trading back while still hoping to draft the young quarterback. Denver is scheduled to pick 12th, so the spot directly after Minnesota.

Allen said on the Broncos’ adoration for McCarthy this week, “There is just a little bit of steam that is beginning to emerge locally that Sean Payton loves J.J. McCarthy … [Payton] covets the next Drew Brees. So just keep that in mind, ya know, when you’re thinking 11.”

Denver appears close to a divorce with quarterback Russell Wilson, willing to swallow a sizeable dead cap hit to start fresh at the game’s most crucial position. Wilson is expected to hit the open market, and oddly, the Vikings have even been linked to his services in a “bridge quarterback” capacity.

“If you’re thinking J.J. McCarthy at 11 just know behind you have the desperate [Payton] who basically will beg, borrow, and steal to get exactly what he wants from this draft from a QB standpoint. A pretty reliable individual informed me over the weekend that Payton is quite enamored with J.J. McCarthy,” Allen added.

Of course, none of this matters — Denver’s ardor for McCarthy — if the Vikings stick-and-pick the Michigan alumnus at No. 11. However, it’s worth noting that the Broncos could, in theory, leapfrog the Vikings via trade and snatch McCarthy that way.

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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.