MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson is eligible for a contract extension, and it is not a surprise that a long term deal with the star wideout projects to cost the Vikings a pretty penny.
Jefferson has racked up 4,825 yards in his career - which is the most in NFL history over a player's first three seasons. The 23-year-old led the NFL in both receptions (128) and yards (1,809) in 2022, earning his third Pro Bowl nod as well as Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Free agent wide receivers earned a significant chunk of change last offseason, putting the Vikings in a tough spot if they want to ink the superstar up for the long haul.
Tyreek Hill tops the market with his $30 million per year deal signed last offseason. Also last offseason, Davante Adams signed a $28 million per year deal, Cooper Kupp signed a $26.7 million per year deal and AJ Brown signed a $25 million per year deal.
Given Jefferson's age and is league-leading stats, he's going to command a deal that tops the wide receiver market in annual and total value. The question is, by how much?
In a Locked on Sports Minnesota roundtable discussion, Luke Inman said he believes a deal will get done sooner rather than later - even if the Vikings technically have two years before they'd lose Jefferson to free agency.
"When the head coach and the GM both say it's a high priority to keep this guy around then you almost know a deal is trying to get done behind the scenes," Inman said. "I just think kicking the can down the road is only going to cost them more in the long run."
Subscribe to the Locked on Sports Minnesota podcast channel, free and available wherever you get your podcasts.
Jefferson's youth, already proven talent, and considerable upside make him a strong candidate to secure a record-breaking contract - part of the reason Minnesota may try to act quickly.
However, the Vikings are more than $24M over the salary cap currently, with big decisions looming regarding Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, TJ Hockenson, and Dalvin Tomlinson. All this creates a complicated situation for Minnesota to navigate, although Sam Ekstrom offers a potential solution.
"Can the Vikings find a way that the signing bonus doesn't hit the [salary] cap until a couple years down the road," Ekstrom said. "Maybe he can play out the final year of his rookie contract, they buy out the fifth year option, and it all kicks in starting in 2024."
Expect Jefferson to remain in a Vikings uniform for the long haul, but who the team is able to put around him - including at quarterback - still remains to be seen.