The Justin Jefferson Extension: A Timeline of The Contract that Didn’t Get Signed

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The most pressing item on the Vikings’ offseason checklist was to hammer out a Justin Jefferson extension. Before the season began on September 10th, the team didn’t get a contract together for their star wideout; one wonders if the failed extension will hover over the season, especially given the inauspicious start.

Indeed, the team is making the bold decision to venture into 2023 without a Jefferson deal that keeps him in town throughout the remainder of his prime. The 5th-year option provides some assurances for 2024, but the team is accepting a decent amount of risk. What happens if Jefferson grows tired of waiting for a new deal as he sees his colleagues from the 2020 NFL Draft — Joe Burrow, Andrew Thomas, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Nick Bosa — get massive deals from their teams? What happens if he continues his elite production, driving his price up even further?

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) dives for the end zone as New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (22) defends during the first quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The call on the field was a touchdown but was changed after review. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In numerous instances, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has proven that he isn’t a pushover. He has convictions and he’ll follow through on them.

The youthful general manager desperately wants the WR1 to stick around Minnesota for the long haul and yet he’s unwilling to budge from his firmly-held convictions. Clearly, the GM had a line and wasn’t willing to cross it. Meanwhile, Jefferson also had a standard that he wasn’t willing to lower. In the end, both sides venture into 2023 with the mission left unaccomplished.

Vikings Get a Decent Grade
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, we’re discussing a situation where all parties agreed that a deal was going to get done. Everyone agreed that a partnership between Minnesota and Jefferson for a long time was the best path forward and yet that hasn’t transpired. How did we get here?

Pulling quotes from the team itself and then other sources (indicated in the individual bullet points) allowed us at PurplePTSD to offer a robust recap of what’s been said and what has happened. Furthermore, I’ve also looked to team announcements for when other star players from the 2020 NFL Draft signed their extensions. Highlighting these other deals hopefully functions as some helpful context.

In all likelihood, there are some important quotes and moments that have been missed, but many of the most important events and thoughts are captured below.

The Failed Justin Jefferson Extension: A Timeline

January 9th, 2023: ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that “members of the 2020 NFL Draft class are eligible for extensions.” Alongside photos of Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson, Yates writes, “Going to be a lucrative offseason for some superstars from that class.”

January 15th, 2023: The New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings 31-24, officially kicking Minnesota into their offseason. Jefferson is held to an uninspiring 7 catches and 47 yards.

January 16th, 2023: Jefferson answers a question about an upcoming extension: “I’ll be wherever I’m wanted. If they want me here, I’m here.” He deflects when it comes to demanding a humongous deal, “I mean, that’s not my decision. It is what it is, they pay me whatever they pay me. They don’t even really have to give me an extension this year.” Shortly thereafter, the WR1 describes his desire to “win a Super Bowl.”

January 18th, 2023: Kwesi Adofo-Mensah takes on a question about the challenge of needing to pay Jefferson. The GM insists that there is an “initial dialogue” that’s ongoing while noting that needing to put together a deal for the receiver qualifies as a “champagne problem.”

Draft Prospect
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

February 28th, 2023: Once again, the GM spends some time explaining how he’s approaching the potential extension: “I said it earlier, I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team, so it’s a priority. We have to make sure we do it in an order that we can do it in given all the other decisions we have to make. It’s not just having an elite player because I think people – maybe they appreciate the talent, maybe they don’t. The human is even better. Seeing it up close every day and he just wants to win.”

March 1st, 2023: Head coach Kevin O’Connell describes how Jefferson is more than just a sensational player but also a wonderful leader: “And I just watch the way he carries himself every single day and week, and to say I’m excited about coaching Justin for a really long time is an understatement. As crazy as it sounds, leading the league in yards and receptions, I really think him and I have really just scratched the surface of where we want to go as an offense – and particularly with him as our premier receiver.”

March 13th, 2023: Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf appears on Good Morning Football. During that interview, Wilf suggests that keeping Jefferson in town is a top priority: “We want to obviously keep him for the long term. He’s one of the most special talents in the NFL, we think he’s the best wide receiver in the league.”

April 17th, 2023: Jalen Hurts agrees to a contract extension with the Eagles.

May 9th, 2023: Kevin O’Connell tells PFT’s Mike Florio “Justin’s going to be here for the long term and we will get that done.”

Vikings Set Training Camp Schedule
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) talk during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

May 30th, 2023: Jefferson is absent at OTAs but O’Connell is quick to note that they continue having “great dialogue.”

June 13th, 2023: At mandatory minicamp, Jefferson takes a few moments to meet with the Minnesota media. He describes how his absence at OTAs wasn’t due to contract concerns and that he’s excited about helping his team. He also confirms that he’ll be at training camp without an extension.

July 25th, 2023: Justin Herbert agrees to a contract extension with the Chargers.

July 25th, 2023: With training camp getting going, reporters ask Adofo-Mensah about where things stand on a Jefferson extension: “Constant ongoing dialogue. We’ll speak with the representatives again soon. We just got back to training camp right so there’s no rush per se in that regard. When we got here, there’s certain types of players you want around. Players who love football, are great at football, make their teammates better, have that winning spirit. I’ll never forget when I first talked to him, when I first met him, he just talked about winning and that’s all you want around you. So, when you identify players like that, you try to find a solution to keep them around. We will do that as best as we can as we go forward.”

July 26th, 2023: As Vikings training camp gets going, Jefferson once again insists that he’ll continue helping his team even without a new contract. The goal is the Super Bowl, Jefferson insists, even as he does want an extension to come together.

July 26th, 2023: Andrew Thomas agrees to a contract extension with the Giants.

July 30th, 2023: Danielle Hunter and the Vikings agree to a restructured contract.

August 7th, 2023: Justin Jefferson does a long interview with Bleacher Report. The sit down with Tyler Conway leads the receiver to explain that the financial end of things isn’t the main focus: “My parents always had money and I was blessed to be a part of a two-parent household that supported me and pretty much gave me anything I needed in the sports aspect and daily life. So money wasn’t my main need. It’s really all about playing the game that I love, playing the game that I’ve been playing since I was 7 years old. Now it’s to the point of contract talks and being one of the highest paid. That’s a dream that I would love to happen someday, but it’s not my main priority.”

August 8th, 2023: Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf meets with the media, referring to Jefferson as both a “special player” and a “special person” who is a great leader for the Vikings. At the end, Wilf explains that “everyone’s working together on the contract” and that the goal is for the receiver to “stay as a Minnesota Viking.”

August 28th, 2023: Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports that “the Vikings are making an effort to get wide receiver Justin Jefferson signed before the season starts.” Apparently, Jefferson refers to a large new deal as “’a dream of mine. It’s been a dream since I was 7 years old.’” To conclude the thought, Breer notes that the Vikings’ WR will “be paid at the top of the market.”

Purple Headlines
Feb 9, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Offensive Player during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

August 31st, 2023: The Vikings and TE T.J. Hockenson agree to an extension.

August 31st, 2023: Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have a joint press conference. Predictably, the unsigned Jefferson deal comes up. The GM responds that the process is still ongoing: “These are long processes where you try to make precise calculations on how to fit everything together. I try not get into private conversations with people, but we’ve said it and we’ll continue to say, Justin [Jefferson] is somebody we want around for a really long time and we’re going to do everything we can to do that. Whenever that happens will be a great day for the Vikings, great day for Justin.” The next question asks whether the GM would consider doing a deal during the season: “I’ll have those conversations. I think there are times with players they kind of just want to focus on the season when it happens. So, those are kind of joint conversations we’ll have with his representatives whenever that time comes.”

September 5th, 2023: Dianna Russini of The Athletic hints that a deal is coming soon: “Good news for Kirk Cousins, I learned there are no concerns that if a deal isn’t reached Jefferson would miss games. Based on my conversations, this is looking to be a contract that will be announced (and celebrated) very soon.” In a separate tweet, Russini indicates that there’s a contract “on the table” for Jefferson.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

September 7th, 2023: The Vikings and S Josh Metellus agree to an extension.

September 7th, 2023: Jefferson meets with the local media. Predictably, he gets asked about the deal that’s still not finished. The receiver notes that he’s “not really too sure” on the deadline for the deal while insisting that he “would want a contract to be done but at the end of the day it’s all up to them and what the ownership want to do.” Notably, he doesn’t completely shut down the idea of negotiations taking place during the season. Later on, Jefferson describes how he’s unique insofar as he has put up historically-great production.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

September 8th, 2023: Nick Bosa agrees to a contract extension with the 49ers.

September 9th, 2023: Joe Burrow agrees to a contract extension with the Bengals.

September 9th, 2023: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the two sides haven’t come to an agreement and will reconvene in 2024: “Vikings’ All-Pro WR Justin Jefferson is not expected to sign a contract extension before Sunday’s opener, per sources. Both sides made a strong effort to get a deal done, but the plan now is to revisit after the season.”

September 10th, 2023: Jefferson, the consummate pro, goes into the Tampa game without the new deal and still drops 9 catches and 150 yards on a talented Buccaneers defense. Unfortunately, the Vikings lose 20-17.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.