Justin Jefferson’s extension is the bill the Vikings can’t keep delaying

The best time to sign a bonafide superstar in the NFL is right now. It’s always right now. With every passing hour, day, and month it becomes more and more expensive to lock down a game-changing player.

Up to this point the Vikings have frustratingly dragged their feet on inking receiver Justin Jefferson to the extension he desperately deserves. Reports continually indicate that talks are “close” or “just around the corner,” but up to this point nothing has materialized — and actions this month only complicate matters. Minnesota is repeating the mistakes of the Cowboys, and it’s going to come back to bite them in the ass.

The calculus here is pretty simple: Jefferson is the best receiver in the NFL, and he wants to be paid like the best receiver in the NFL. The man knows his worth, and has the rightful expectation that the Vikings are going to loosen the purse strings.

“I want to break the bank and I want to be a part of an organization that wants me and to really give me what I deserve. I feel like eventually the Vikings will do what they need to do to have me in the building, but I don’t really know at this very moment.”

At the time it was postulated that this would mean a deal with an annual average value (AAV) north of $30M — based off the highest receiver contract at the time, which was Tyreek Hill. However, the wide receiver market has been shaken up since the end of May in ways that will have a profound impact on Jefferson’s salary expectations.

If a deal was done back in February it would have been fairly easy to project a contract for the receiver. A 3-year, $100M deal with upwards of $80M guaranteed would have been a nice, easy, round number that would both shatter the market and ensure that Jefferson could get another contract extension in his prime.

The biggest stars in the league are banking on themselves, and agents are fully aware the salary cap isn’t going down any time soon. It’s for this reason we’re more likely to see top stars seeking three-year deals over five-year contracts, especially if it means re-entering the free agent market before the age of 30.

There is a mammoth problem in projecting Jefferson’s contract demands now, and it comes from three primary players — all of whom have newly-inked deals.

  • A.J. Brown (Eagles): 3 years, $96M — $84M guaranteed
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown (Lions): 4 years, $120M — $77M guaranteed
  • Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins): 3 years, $84.7M — $76M guaranteed

The Brown contract reset the AAV of wide receiver contracts at $32M, while St. Brown and Waddle showed that teams are willing to pony up guaranteed money — even if a receiver has only had one truly elite season under their belts.

It means very good things for Justin Jefferson, and bad news for the Vikings salary cap. Here you have a player with equivalent numbers to A.J Brown, but he’s been in the league for a year less — while also being two years younger.

The definition of “breaking the bank” has changed, and now there’s a clear figure looming large:

3 years, $120M — $100M guaranteed

That triple-digit guaranteed mark is big. Myles Garrett is the only non-quarterback to hit the figure, and it would be the kind of groundbreaking receiver deal that Jefferson is looking for. It’s about the money, but it’s even more important to Jefferson from a perception standpoint — and also is the kind of money needed to entice him to endure the rebuild.

Yes, the Vikings have shot themselves in the foot by waiting. Nothing has fundamentally changed about Jefferson’s ability in the last 12 months, but overspending on Kirk Cousins tied their hands. Now the result is that they’ll need to overpay their WR position, eating into the mammoth cap savings garnered by playing J.J. McCarthy on a rookie QB deal.

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the same mistake the Cowboys have made with CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, and especially Dak Prescott — all of whom seem destined to cause massive headaches to the cap future of their team, all due to contract inaction before it was too late.

At this point an extension for Jefferson is going to hurt, a lot — but it’s never going to be less painful than it is right now. Time to pull the Band-Aid off and get it done.

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