Don’t Worry about Justin Jefferson’s No-Show

Jefferson Mad
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As a critical draft with long-term ramifications for the Vikings (if they select their quarterback of the future) approaches, the 2024 offseason program quietly began this week.

It starts with three weeks of strength and conditioning work for the players, along with some classroom work.

Don’t Worry about Justin Jefferson’s No-Show

The big story from Week 1 of the Vikings offseason program is the absence of star receiver Justin Jefferson (which is really not a big story and not a surprise). The same thing happened last offseason: Jefferson did not report for the voluntary portion but attended the mandatory minicamp as his seemingly endless contract extension negotiations continued.

justin jefferson
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It’s now one year later, and there’s still no new deal for J.J. He’s under contract this year for $19.743 million under the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. Jefferson is seeking over $30 million per year on his extension as he aims to become the league’s highest-paid receiver, surpassing Tyreek Hill’s $30 million per year extension signed in 2022 before the salary cap rose $50 million over the last two years to $255 million.

Jefferson and his agents also surely want to top 49ers DE Nick Bosa’s $34 million per year extension negotiated last year, which is the NFL’s highest non-QB contract.

Some media members are spreading ludicrous rumors that Jefferson could be traded as part of a Vikings move-up to the top four in next week’s draft to take a highly regarded quarterback.

There’s no way the Vikings are trading their best and most popular player.

As for his absence from the voluntary offseason program, that’s no big deal. Jefferson will come to the mandatory minicamp if his new deal is not done. He’ll be at training camp in late July, and I think his new Vikings contract will be completed by then.

justin jefferson
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As an NFL GM and team president, I was not concerned with veteran holdouts or hold-ins (showing up but not practicing) until a week or so into training camp, especially with an elite player such as Jefferson, who knows the offensive scheme and stays in excellent shape.

With rookies, I wanted them at the offseason meetings, OTAs, and minicamp practices and would give them injury protection letters so they could participate in those sessions, which were critical so they learned the playbooks and knew the offensive or defensive scheme.

Players must be signed to contracts in order to participate in training camp, and I would threaten to take money out of rookies’ signing bonuses if they didn’t sign and report at the start of training camp, as their value would diminish with every day they were absent. Rookies often don’t report in top shape and get hurt if they are late.

Mock Draft
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So, do not fret about Jefferson’s early absence. He’ll be in camp when it really matters so he can get in sync with his 2024 quarterbacks. Perhaps that will include a top four or five draft pick, such as J.J. McCarthy or Drake Maye, or a later pick, such as Michael Penix Jr. or Bo Nix. 

Jefferson definitely will be working with the likely bridge QB who will most likely be the starter at the beginning of training camp—and perhaps in the early regular season—which will be Sam Darnold.

Around the NFL Observations:

The three days of the NFL Draft are a prime time for significant trades. Some involve swaps of draft picks for teams to move up or down, and some involve veteran players traded due to contract or salary cap concerns.

49ers WR Not Impressed by Vikings Joint Practices
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s a list of players I think are possible trade targets in the next week and into draft days: Saints RB Alvin Kamara, 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk, Bengals WR Tee Higgins, Ravens WR (and ex-Golden Gopher) Rashod Bateman, Titans WR Treylon Burks, Jets QB bust Zach Wilson, Cardinals S Budda Baker, Browns CB Greg Newsome and Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II (in a possible trade up to a top-four draft spot to pick a QB by Sean Payton which could be a big problem for the Vikings if the Broncos pull that off).

It will be fascinating, as always, to see what unfolds with picks and trades on draft days that are fast approaching.

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