ESPN Analyst Predicts One More Vikings Move for the 2023 Offseason
With the NFL Draft now a few weeks behind us, and the Vikings making great headway on signing their picks, along with the Za’Darius Smith trade officially in the books, there aren’t many moves left for the Vikings to get done this offseason.
That being said, ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell created a list of 14 post-draft moves that he predicts will happen yet this offseason. One of those moves involves the Vikings, and it is probably the move that every fan can unanimously agree needs to happen at some point: the Justin Jefferson extension. Here is what Barnwell had to say about the looming extension and why Minnesota needs to get it done:
One player who isn’t going anywhere is Jefferson, who has emerged as arguably the best wide receiver in football. Over his first three seasons, Jefferson has averaged 96.5 receiving yards per game and more than 10 yards per target. He’s coming off a well-deserved Offensive Player of the Year award, highlighted by one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see to extend and eventually win a game over the Bills. The only blight on Jefferson’s record is inspiring some very questionable imitations of his signature touchdown celebration from other players around the NFL.
It’s hard to say anything about Jefferson’s early career that hasn’t already been stated. He instantly came into the Vikings offense and transformed them into a high-flying passing unit and already has league receptions and receiving yardage titles under his belt just three years into his career.
Without playing a single snap in 2023, Jefferson has already recorded the ninth-most receptions and sixth-most receiving yards of any player over the course of their first four seasons in NFL history. He needs just 687 yards this season to take over the top spot from Michael Thomas (all per Stathead).
From Weeks 4-10 last season, Jefferson recorded 814 yards in just six games. Barring any injury, it seems safe to say the Vikings star receiver will crush that 687 yardage total this year.
However, the question remains, how much money will it take to keep Jefferson around long-term? Barnwell takes a dive into answering that question as well in this article:
Jefferson has been an absolute bargain for the Minnesota Vikings over the past three years, producing superstar numbers for a total of just $10.7 million. That’s about to change. The top of the wide receiver market is Tyreek Hill’s four-year, $120 million deal, which paid the Dolphins standout $72.8 million over Years 1-3. (Hill’s deal has a $43.9 million base salary in its final season, which exists solely to make it look as if the contract is worth $30 million per season, just as Alvin Kamara’s deal has a $22.4 million base salary in its final year; it’s strictly for agent bragging rights.)
With the salary cap rising by nearly 11% between 2022 and 2023, Hill’s $72.8 million mark would translate to more than $80 million on the current cap. I would expect Jefferson’s camp to push for north of $30 million per year on paper, $60 million guaranteed at the time of signing and something in the ballpark of $80 million over the first three years on the new deal. Jefferson’s deal will help set the market for Ja’Marr Chase, who will be up for his own extension next offseason.
Luckily for the Vikings, if a deal for Jefferson ends up costing them upwards of $60 million guaranteed and an annual value of $30+ million, they’ve done a ton of work to free up cap space for the next couple years. The trade of Smith frees up $20 million that can be used next offseason, and if Minnesota were to move on from Dalvin Cook, that’s another big chunk of money that can go towards a Jefferson extension.
Regardless, all signs from Minnesota’s leadership have suggested an extension is coming. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah called it ‘champagne problems’ earlier this offseason, and just last week, Kevin O’Connell expressed great confidence that a deal will get done. The Vikings have plenty of time to get a deal complete with Jefferson, so this contract feels like more of a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
Jefferson will turn 24 prior to the start of the 2023 NFL season.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.