Bleacher Report Names Prominent Viking for Team’s ‘Best Value Contract’

Rick Spielman
Jun 15, 2021; in Eagen, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman looks on during drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The top contract for the Minnesota Vikings chatter mill generally is that of Danielle Hunter. Much of this offseason revolved around a potential Hunter holdout, although the situation was temporarily remedied a couple of weeks ago. The Vikings moved more guaranteed money onto Hunter’s 2021 ledger, setting up a fateful decision next offseason to either extend the LSU alumnus or allow him to walk via free agency.

Should Hunter conduct a “normal” season by his standards – north of 10 sacks or so – well, he’ll flirt with $25-$30 million per year aspirations from the Vikings or some other NFL team. All in all, Hunter’s last few seasons have been a “steal of a deal” for Minnesota’s front office.

Other advantageous contracts exist on the Vikings books. Eric Kendricks, considered by most as the NFL’s third-best off-ball linebacker behind Bobby Wagner and Fred Warner, earns an average annual salary that could reasonably escalate when extension talks commence. For now, he is around the league’s 17th highest paid non-EDGE linebacker.

Those are the two biggies for team-friendly deals in the Vikings current financial landscape. Kirk Cousins possesses a large contract, commanding $33 million per season on average. That is scrutinized by onlookers ad nauseam because, at that price, Cousins should be bootstrap-levitating the team around him – or so the theory goes. Nevermind the NFL’s fourth-worst defense in 2020 or habitually stinky offensive line that struggles to keep him upright – Cousins, by many accounts, is mandated to orchestrate business like Patrick Mahomes – as if that’s simple to replicate.

And his Vikings contract is the only one that is savaged repeatedly. While some folks squawked about Dalvin Cook’s 2020 extension – a sect of fans despise paying running backs – reasonable heads prevailed when Cook sliced and diced the NFL last season for 1,918 total yards and 17 touchdowns amid the pandemic season. Not bad for a player that is often coined as expendable by the never-pay-a-RB crowd.

So, who’s the best value contract. For Bleacher Report, the answer is straightforward: Justin Jefferson.

Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson warms up before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

A seismic wide receiver on a rookie deal for the next four seasons, capable of tabulating 1,400 receiving yards (a rookie record) during his maiden voyage? Yes, please.

Here’s what BR’s Brad Gagnon said about Jefferson and his contract value:

You don’t have to scan the Minnesota Vikings’ Spotrac page long in order to conclude that 2020 rookie sensation Justin Jefferson is the best bang-for-your-buck player on the roster.  The 22-year-old is coming off a ridiculous maiden campaign in which he put up 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns to earn a Pro Bowl nod right off the bat. He caught more than 70 percent of the passes thrown his way and ranked fourth in the NFL with a yards-per-target average of 11.2. But because he wasn’t an especially high first-round pick (22nd overall), Jefferson did all that for just $2.4 million. He’ll keep getting raises moving forward, but his $3.3 million average annual rate still ranks 57th among players at his position.  Offensive tackle Brian O’Neill continues to improve and could turn into a star at that critical spot, so he’ll remain a bargain with a $2.8 million cap hit in the final year of his rookie deal. But he hasn’t arrived like Jefferson, and the difference in the pay isn’t substantial.

Jefferson will be inevitably linked to the performance of Stefon Diggs in Buffalo for at least the next few seasons. The two were swapped for one another via draft pick to the Vikings. Meanwhile, in addition to Jefferson, Minnesota also received (DE) Kenny Willekes, (S) Camryn Bynum, (DE) Janarius Robinson, and (TE) Zach Davidson in later transactions as benefits of the trade. The distinguishing factor when evaluating Jefferson against Diggs (or vice versa) is the very theme of the Gagnon article.

Jefferson will be cheaper for longer and is putting up herculean numbers that far exceed what Diggs enacted at age 21. This is rarely exalted during the comparison of the two. Compare young Diggs to young Jefferson – or wait five years and compare 27-year-old Jefferson to what 27-year-old Diggs pulled off in 2020.

With all of the same leadership in place or a completely refurbished coach and quarterback down the road, the Vikings will have four more years of “discounted” Jefferson to make deep playoff pushes. After that, Jefferson will shatter WR contract records if he builds on his 2020 rookie campaign – which every Vikings fan craves.