Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson Not Present To Start Vikings’ Offseason Program

Offseason programs do not shift to the mandatory attendance portion until near their conclusion, with minicamps residing on teams’ calendars in June. But this week will bring a minor chapter in a few contract sagas. Justin Jefferson‘s status with the Vikings is among them.

Jefferson did not report to the first day of the Vikings’ offseason program Monday. It should be noted Jefferson did not show for Vikings voluntary work last year but reported for minicamp. The sides engaged in extension talks leading up to the season, falling just short, and remain without a resolution. The Vikings have Jefferson tied to a $19.74MM fifth-year option, which is fully guaranteed.

[RELATED: Vikings To Not Intend To Trade Justin Jefferson]

I’ve had a lot of great dialogue with Justin throughout even the early part of this offseason and leading up,” Kevin O’Connell said, via KTSP in Minnesota. “My hope is we can get him around the team. Obviously such a special player, but it goes beyond that this time of year because of just the energy and flat-out way he goes to work.”

Although Jefferson suffered a hamstring injury that kept him off the field for much of last season, the three-time All-Pro remains on track to secure a market-resetting extension. CeeDee Lamb and Amon-Ra St. Brown also being on the extension radar provides a bit of a complication, as Jefferson has accomplished more than his NFC peers. It is understandable the 2020 first-round pick will want to be the NFL’s highest-paid receiver. Tyreek Hill, thanks to a contract that features a lofty nonguaranteed 2026 season to up the AAV, remains in that spot (at $30MM per year). Jefferson, 24, has confirmed he wants to land his big-money deal with the Vikings.

Not showing up at the Vikes’ Eagan, Minn., facility until minicamp this offseason will be a bit different than his 2023 absence. The Vikings have a new quarterback, after six Kirk Cousins seasons, and Sam Darnold will likely be joined by a first-round pick when the team convenes for post-draft workouts. Jefferson working with the Vikes’ post-Cousins QBs would stand to benefit all parties. But this is part of negotiating playbooks; with no resolution in sight, Jefferson may well opt to stay away for a while. No fines can come his way until minicamp.

The Vikings have a history of authorizing wide receiver extensions and then trading the player, as they did with Randy Moss (extended in 2001, traded in 2005) and Stefon Diggs (extended in 2018, dealt in 2020). They also moved Percy Harvin, who signed his second contract with the Seahawks. Jefferson’s early years place him on a plane with Moss and few others throughout NFL history. The Vikings have, however, paid T.J. Hockenson at a top-market rate. Once Cousins’ dead money ($28.5MM) comes off their books in 2025, the Vikes — with Darnold on a one-year deal and the to-be-determined rookie (in all likelihood) tied to a cost-controlled deal for at least three years — also have a clearer runway for a Jefferson deal.

The prospect of how much more it will take compared to Miami’s Hill contract will be a component in Minnesota’s Jefferson talks. The second year of Jefferson extension eligibility has not reached a key juncture, but that point will arrive before the season starts.

Vikings Have “No Intent” To Trade Justin Jefferson

MARCH 13: Kirk Cousins‘ free agency departure for Atlanta has not changed Minnesota’s plans with Jefferson. The team is not considering a blockbuster trade involving its elite wide receiver, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Alec Lewis note. The All-Pro undoubtedly served as a key selling point for Sam Darnold, who is positioned — before the draft, at least — to take over for Cousins.

FEBRUARY 27: The Vikings made a late push to extend Justin Jefferson last offseason, and while both sides made it clear that they were fine with tabling talks until this year, that hasn’t stopped pundits from speculating on a potential divorce. Head coach Kevin O’Connell was quick to dismiss those rumors, stating during an appearance on PFT Live that the organization has no intention of trading their star wideout.

[RELATED: Justin Jefferson Wants To Remain With Vikings]

“I can tell you we have no intent to trade Justin Jefferson,” O’Connell said (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “We have had zero discussions, dialogue about that either internally, externally, on this planet or another planet. I feel very strongly that Justin is best in his position in football. Any time you’re trying to reset the receiver market — we know who he is, we know what Justin’s earned through his first four years in this league — you know how hard it is. . . . It was never gonna be something that was just be easy to get done, but the intent was there. The intent is still stronger than ever to get something done with Justin.”

The former first-round pick is set to play the 2024 campaign on his fifth-year option worth $19.74MM, so it’s only natural for both Jefferson and the Vikings to explore an extension. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah admitted this week that the two sides got “unbelievably close” to an extension last offseason (per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert), and the executive reiterated that the Vikings want Jefferson to stick around Minnesota “for a long time.” Adofo-Mensah also said that any whispers of difficult negotiations were “completely false.”

Jefferson has expressed a desire to re-sign with the Vikings, but it doesn’t sound like he’s overly interested in giving the team a hometown discount. The 2022 first-team All-Pro said he wants to “break the bank,” a hint that he’s looking to surpass the position-leading $30MM average annual value set by Tyreek Hill. Three other WRs are currently making $25MM or more per season (Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown), and Jefferson will surely be looking to join that accomplished group with his next contract.

While the organization may be willing to commit to Jefferson’s AAV, it sounds like they’re drawing a line in the sand with the guaranteed money. According to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, it’s common for the Vikings organization to only commit to one year of guaranteed money in extensions. However, while that’s been their “typical structure,” the organization did make an exception with tight end T.J. Hockenson, a factor that Jefferson’s camp will presumably point to during negotiations.

After not missing a game through his first three seasons in the NFL, Jefferson was limited to only 10 appearances this past season. He still managed to pass 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and his 107.4 yards per game actually established a new career-high.

Justin Jefferson Wants To Remain With Vikings

Talks on a new deal between the Vikings and wideout Justin Jefferson took place in advance of the 2023 campaign, but they did not produce an agreement. The sides will no doubt prioritize a resumption of negotiations this offseason.

The Vikings made a late push to hammer out a contract prior to Week 1, but the sides agreed to table negotiations until the end of the campaign. Jefferson followed up his Offensive Player of the Year season in strong fashion despite missing seven games due to a hamstring injury. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, adding to the historic three-year run which began his career.

As a result of his production, the 24-year-old is in line to receive the largest WR contract in NFL history. He is on the books for one more season via the $19.74MM fifth-year option, but a second pact will check in at a far higher figure. When asked about where things stand on that front, Jefferson expressed a desire to remain with the Vikings for the long term. A hometown discount should not be expected, though.

“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,” the LSU alum told Adam Schein of Mad Dog Sports Radio (video link). 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; only time will tell.”

Tyreek Hill became the first wideout to average $30MM per year when he inked an extension upon arrival with the Dolphins. Three other receivers are at an AAV of $25MM or more, but Jefferson’s age, statistical output and durability – with the exception of this year’s injury, which the team approached with caution before his IR activation – should allow him to reset the top of the market.

The Vikings currently sit mid-pack in terms of cap space, and the team has a number of critical free agent decisions to make. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and edge rusher Danielle Hunter headline the team’s list of pending free agents, and negotiations on a new deal for the former in particular will inform much of Minnesota’s other offseason moves. In any case, though, getting Jefferson on the book for 2025 and beyond will a key priority, and it will be interesting to see how much progress is made on extension talks this offseason.

NFL Injury Roundup: Jefferson, Herbert, Hamilton

Justin Jefferson‘s return from injured reserve may not last long. In Jefferson’s first game back from the IR-stint caused by a nagging hamstring injury, the Vikings wide receiver was knocked out of the game early with a separate injury.

While cutting across the middle of the field on a deep slant, Jefferson leapt up, arms extended, in an attempt to grab a high pass from quarterback Joshua Dobbs. While Jefferson was fully exposed in the process of the catch, Raiders safety Marcus Epps delivered a big shot to Jefferson’s rib cage from the side.

It didn’t take long for the team to rule Jefferson out for the remainder of the game with a chest injury. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Minnesota decided to transport Jefferson to a local hospital in Las Vegas. While perhaps not indicative of the worst-case scenario, the Vikings are likely just acting out of an abundance of caution.

At 6-6, the Vikings are one of a handful of NFC teams on the boundary of playoff contention, even without Jefferson for the last eight weeks. If Jefferson’s chest injury is not too painful to overcome, he would be a great asset in a playoff push to close the season.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the league:

  • The Chargers are facing an uphill battle in their attempts to remain in playoff contention. Things won’t get any easier as starting quarterback Justin Herbert was ruled out of today’s game with a finger injury, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. With Herbert out, backup quarterback Easton Stick has entered the game for his first game action since the 2020 season. Since starting in place of an injured Tyrod Taylor in Week 2 of his rookie season, Herbert has not missed a single start in his career. If Herbert’s finger keeps him out for more than a few days, with Los Angeles facing a short week, Stick could see his first ever NFL start in Vegas this Thursday.
  • Ravens do-it-all safety Kyle Hamilton was forced to leave today’s overtime win over the Rams with a knee injury. He had sat out a couple of plays after initially tweaking his knee before returning to the field of play earlier in the game. A few drives later, he would not return and was ruled out for the rest of the game. According to Schefter, the plan is for Hamilton to undergo an MRI scan tomorrow in order to determine the extent of the injury. Baltimore is set up well with Marcus Williams and Geno Stone at safety, but Hamilton lines up in so many places on the defense that he would be virtually impossible to replace with a single player if he’s forced to miss any time.

Vikings Activate Justin Jefferson From IR

The Vikings played it safe with Justin Jefferson, placing him in the IR-return window for the full three weeks. But the superstar wide receiver will be back once Minnesota returns from its Week 13 bye.

Jefferson is officially off IR, the team announced. While the team needed to activate Jefferson by Wednesday to avoid him landing on season-ending IR, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicates he will play in Week 14. This will obviously provide a significant boost for a Vikings team that has encountered some obstacles over the past two weeks. Tuesday’s move leaves the Vikings with four IR activations remaining.

Suffering a hamstring injury in Week 5, Jefferson resumed practicing when first eligible. That represented a good sign, as many players who have returned to practice while on IR have been activated days later this season. That was never expected with Jefferson, given his importance to the team and his contract status.

Minnesota has slow-played the fourth-year wideout’s return, holding him out of games against the Saints, Broncos and Bears. It is certainly possible Jefferson would have the Vikings at 8-4 rather than 6-6, but Kirk Cousins‘ Achilles tear has limited the team as well. Considering how a hamstring setback could affect Jefferson’s chances of returning at all this season, it was not too surprising the Vikings’ top player said he would not return until he was 100%.

Jefferson had resumed sprinting in practice, providing a sign he was close. Logging limited practices ahead of Week 12, the All-Pro talent is on track to be full go in Week 14. With the Vikings in a bye week, Jefferson has an additional stretch to prepare for a return. Minnesota will face Las Vegas in Week 14.

The Vikings may be making another quarterback change between now and then, after seeing trade acquisition Josh Dobbs throw four interceptions in an ugly home loss to the Bears. Dobbs generated praise for his post-trade play, but he has struggled in Minnesota’s past two losses. The Vikings recently activated Nick Mullens from IR and have fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall recovered from the concussion he suffered earlier this month — an injury that brought in Dobbs.

Whichever QB the Vikings choose will have the opportunity target a high-end pass-catching corps. Fresh off an extension, T.J. Hockenson leads all tight ends with 786 receiving yards. Jordan Addison has shown early promise, stepping into the Jefferson role as the Vikes’ top wide receiver for much of this season. The first-round pick has 686 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Even in five games, Jefferson amassed 571 yards. Jefferson’s 4,825 receiving yards through three seasons shattered an NFL record. While Jefferson has only finished four games in Year 4, only Michael Thomas has more yards through four years than Jefferson. And the former Saints All-Pro has just a 116-yard lead here.

While Jefferson’s contract situation looms as the big-picture issue here, he ruled out the possibility of sitting out for the season’s remainder due to his rookie-deal status. After agreeing to terms with Hockenson on a tight end-record deal, the Vikings should be expected to break the WR AAV record — perhaps by a wide margin — for Jefferson in 2024. For now, however, Minnesota remains alive in an NFC playoff race once again on track to produce an unremarkable No. 7 seed. Since the NFL expanded to seven playoff teams per conference in 2020, the NFC has sent 8-8 or 9-8 teams (Bears, Eagles, Seahawks) to the postseason as 7 seeds.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson Out For Week 12

NOVEMBER 27: Jefferson will not play tonight, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Minnesota will elect to play it safe in this case with the bye week looming after the team’s upcoming contest against the Bears. Pelissero adds that Jefferson is expected to be 100% healthy by the time the Vikings next take the field.

NOVEMBER 25: Jefferson was limited in practice on Saturday, leading to a questionable designation. Head coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed the team will continue to evaluate his status all the way up to their primetime matchup, meaning a firm decision has still not been made (video link). Minnesota has until Monday afternoon to activate Jefferson, otherwise his return will be delayed at least one more game.

NOVEMBER 24: A hamstring injury has forced Justin Jefferson to miss game action for the first time in his career. The Vikings All-Pro continues to make progress in his recovery, however, and he could see the field as early as Week 12.

Jefferson was placed on IR in October to avoid the risk of a rushed return to the lineup. That move guaranteed at least four-week absence, though, and that timeline has since been extended. Despite having his practice window opened more than two weeks ago, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year has not yet been activated, something which needs to take place before Minnesota’s upcoming Monday night game against the Bears for him to be eligible to play.

That move could be coming in the very near future, however. Jefferson noted (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) that he has reached full speed during practice, meaning he could be in line to suit up for Week 12. A firm decision has yet to be made on that front, but his return would obviously give the Vikings’ offense a major boost. Minnesota reeled off five straight wins in his absence before losing in Week 11, but Jefferson would give new starting quarterback Josh Dobbs the team’s top pass-catcher as an option offense to help their postseason push.

“I’m not sure,” Jefferson said when producing an update on his current status. “We’ll see. We still have more days to practice and really evaluate everything. We’re going to weigh the options correctly, making sure that I’m feeling well and prepared to play a game, and if I’m feeling good I will play.”

Of course, Jefferson’s contract status as loomed over his recovery period. The 24-year-old – who began his career with the most productive three-year receiving stretch in NFL history – is on the books through 2024, when he will play on his fifth-year option. Talks on what will no doubt be a massive extension took place this summer, but they did not produce an agreement. Negotiations will not resume until the offseason, leading to speculation Jefferson would avoid a return to action without a new contract in hand. He offered a stark rebuttal on that point when asked about it.

“I know my position. I know what I’m doing,” he said (via Seifert). “And I know it’s not for the contract. It’s not for the contract at all.”

In any case, Jefferson’s status will be worth watching closely over the weekend as he continues to work toward a return. Bringing him back into the lineup will use up one of the five IR activations the Vikings still have at this point in the season.

Vikings Will Not Activate WR Justin Jefferson For Week 11; QB Nick Mullens Activated

For the second straight week, Vikings fans will come away disappointed as star wide receiver Justin Jefferson will once again not be activated from injured reserve in time for Sunday’s game, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Jefferson returned to practice this week but clearly doesn’t quite feel ready to return to the active roster.

The All-Pro receiver’s 21-day practice window was opened on November 8, meaning Jefferson can miss this week’s contest and potentially even the one after that before returning from IR. He will have to be activated in the week after the team’s Week 12 game against the Bears in order to avoid losing the ability to be activated off IR, but if he still needs time to get healthy, the Vikings have a Week 13 bye that will grant Jefferson another two weeks after the Chicago matchup to get right.

That’s not to say that Jefferson will miss next week, as well, necessarily. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Minnesota has noted good progress for Jefferson this week and are getting very close to activating him. He just wasn’t quite ready to be activated by today’s 4pm deadline.

The Vikings will make an addition to their active roster, though, activating quarterback Nick Mullens from IR today. Following the loss of Kirk Cousins for the year, the addition of Mullens certainly becomes more meaningful, but Mullens won’t be asked to take over the offense in Cousins’ absence as trade acquisition Joshua Dobbs has assumed the starting position under center. Still, Mullens provides Minnesota with a stronger option at backup quarterback. Jaren Hall remains unavailable as he deals with a concussion, and Mullens should be an upgrade over practice squad passer Sean Mannion.

In addition to the activation of Mullens, the Vikings announced that two more players would be added to the active roster for tomorrow’s contest. The team has promoted veteran linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerback Joejuan Williams from the practice squad in time for tomorrow’s Mile High matchup.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson Out For Week 10

NOVEMBER 11: As expected, Jefferson will indeed be out for Week 10, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. While his ramp-up period continues, the Vikings remain hopeful Jefferson will be able to suit up before their Week 13 bye, Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports. That comes as little surprise given the timing of their decision to open his practice window, but a relatively quick return would of course be a welcomed development for a shorthanded Minnesota offense.

NOVEMBER 9: When speaking publicly for the first time since returning to practice, Jefferson confirmed he gave no serious consideration to sitting out the remainder of the season (h/t ESPN’s Kevin Seifert). He added, to no surprise, that he will not suit up at less than 100%, pointing further to a Week 10 absence being likely.

NOVEMBER 8, 2:19pm: Kevin O’Connell confirmed the Vikings have a timeline planned for Jefferson’s return, and the second-year Vikings HC admitted (via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling) a return this week would be on the aggressive side. As it stands, the Vikes’ Week 11 tilt in Denver stands to be Jefferson’s earliest return window.

12:25pm: Some murky updates have come since Justin Jefferson landed on IR with a hamstring injury. While the All-Pro wide receiver is no lock to be ready by Sunday, the Vikings will see him back at practice.

Minnesota opened Jefferson’s practice window Wednesday, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, starting his activation clock. The Vikings will have until Nov. 29 to activate Jefferson or see him revert to season-ending IR. With the team still in contention for a playoff spot, Jefferson has a reason to return. Of course, the superstar receiver’s contract stands to affect his timetable.

The Vikings and Jefferson negotiated this summer, talking right up until Week 1. But the sides could not agree to terms, pushing talks to 2024. In the fifth-year option era, no team has extended a wide receiver with two seasons of rookie-contract control previously, and while the Vikings aimed to be the first, they still have another offseason to do so before the franchise tag comes into play. But the failed talks will point to Jefferson waiting until he is 100% recovered from the injury he sustained in Week 5.

As such, Jefferson is not expected to play this week. This timetable would make Week 11 — against the Broncos — the fourth-year playmaker’s first opportunity to come back. But Wednesday sets a clear timeline for Jefferson’s activation. The parties could also opt for a long runway here. Minnesota’s bye arrives in Week 13, which opens the door for a possible extended buildup in which Jefferson spends the full three weeks on IR and receives an extra week of recovery time before a Week 14 return. While that might be overkill, it is important to note some recent hamstring setbacks that have affected other standout pass catchers.

Both Keenan Allen and Darren Waller sustained setbacks during their recoveries, leading to extended hiatuses. Allen ended up missing seven games with his hamstring malady, while Waller missed eight. The latter, who had already signed his Raiders extension when he attempted to return too soon last season, is on IR with another hamstring malady as a Giant. New York also saw left tackle Andrew Thomas aggravate his hamstring injury during recovery this season, and while Thomas is not a skill-position player, the All-Pro lineman needed another month before returning thanks to the aggravation.

The Vikings have won each of their games without Jefferson, and the team’s contender status loomed as a factor in the wideout’s comeback. The Vikes are aiming to become only the second team this century (after the 2018 Texans) to rally from 0-3 to the playoffs. Although, three of the Jefferson-less victories came with Kirk Cousins at the controls. The longtime Minnesota quarterback is out for the season with a torn Achilles. The team received a boost from trade pickup Josh Dobbs last week, and while the eight-game Cardinals starter will start for the Vikes in Week 10 against the Saints, the team’s offense will lack the capabilities it had with Cousins.

Minnesota’s QB setup may also affect Jefferson’s timetable, but in the grand scheme, his price tag is unlikely to drop if a hamstring aggravation occurs. Though, the Vikings would risk losing Jefferson for the season if that transpires. The 2020 first-rounder, who shattered the NFL record for receiving yards through three seasons, still leads the Vikings with 571 receiving yards. Jordan Addison has shown growth during Jefferson’s absence, creating an enticing setup for the resurgent team should it activate its aerial ace this month.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson Not Quite Ready For Return

After not missing a single game over his first three seasons in the NFL, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has missed the team’s last four contests. The 24-year-old was placed on injured reserve back in mid-October while dealing with a hamstring injury, but after sitting out the four games required before returning from IR, Jefferson is still unlikely to return for the Vikings’ matchup with the Saints this weekend, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Early on in Jefferson’s absence, Minnesota felt confident in his ability to return to the field quickly. Certain reports hinted that the team was not expecting Jefferson to require more than the four-week minimum requirement that a player must remain on IR before being activated back to the active roster.

While head coach Kevin O’Connell did acknowledge that the injury was “significant,” the Vikings certainly didn’t determine the ailment to be season-ending. Still, hamstring issues can linger persistently and naggingly, as we saw last year with both Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen and former Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who each missed at least seven games in 2022.

O’Connell did recently say that “it’s possible” the Vikings open up Jefferson’s 21-day practice window tomorrow, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, but the second-year head coach cautioned that the team is weary of doing anything that may set Jefferson back in his recovery. There are likely some steps that still need to be taken in order for that designation to be made. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the team is uncertain about his status and unable to make a decision on how to handle the young wideout because Jefferson still needs to meet with doctors.

So, while the Vikings could designate Jefferson to return from IR, opening his 21-day practice window to come off the injured list, if they make the designation too soon, and Jefferson experiences a setback that keeps him from coming back to the active roster, they risk losing Jefferson for the remainder of the year. The team will need to gather all the possible information to make sure that bringing him back to practice this week is the best decision for both parties, regardless of his current eligibility.

In the meantime, Minnesota will continue to spread the ball around in order to account for Jefferson’s absence. Since he was placed on IR, the Vikings are 4-0, including a back-and-forth win without quarterback Kirk Cousins last week. In the first three games without Jefferson, Minnesota had a different leading receiver in every contest as rookie Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, and tight end T.J. Hockenson all stepped up their contributions.

With Cousins out for the remainder of the year with a torn Achilles tendon, the continued ball distribution will be up to newly acquired quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who was forced to step in and lead his new team to victory when interim starting quarterback Jaren Hall went down with a concussion. It sounds like Dobbs will be forced to figure it out without Jefferson for at least another week.

Latest On Justin Jefferson, Kirk Cousins; Vikings Audition Colt McCoy

OCTOBER 15: In a full-length piece, Schefter reiterates his earlier point that Jefferson could miss the rest of the season if the Vikings are out of contention by the time he is healthy enough to return to the field. From a purely medical perspective, Jefferson stands to miss up to six weeks, and he will undergo imaging tests in four weeks’ time to determine his status.

OCTOBER 12: After going three-plus seasons without missing a game, Justin Jefferson is set to miss at least four. After a hamstring injury in Week 5, the Vikings placed the superstar wide receiver on IR. A few factors could determine Jefferson’s true return timetable.

The Vikings do not expect this injury to require more than the four-week minimum, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport; that would give Jefferson a Week 11 reentrance stage. Kevin O’Connell said (via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling) the team does not view this as a season-ending injury, though the second-year HC labeled it “significant” in nature. While hamstring injuries present potential for aggravation, they are rarely deemed as season-threatening maladies — at least, not at this point on the calendar. That said, both Keenan Allen and Darren Waller missed large chunks of last season due to hamstring ailments.

[RELATED: Jets Not Looking Into Trading For Cousins]

Jefferson’s summer contract talks may also play into this. After an early-summer report indicated the Vikings were fine tabling these negotiations to 2024, the team attempted a late push to extend the record-setting pass catcher before Week 1. These talks went up against the season opener but did not produce a deal. Despite T.J. Hockenson signing a monster tight end extension, the Vikings have their best player in Year 4 of a rookie contract. Although no team has picked up a wide receiver’s fifth-year option and extended him with two years of control remaining, the Vikings appeared close to breaking this precedent with Jefferson.

The team not doing so opens the door to the wideout playing this cautiously and, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter noted, the Vikes’ record by the time Jefferson is moving closer to a return could factor into these proceedings. After turning a negative point differential into a 13-4 season, the Vikings are 1-4 and potentially staring at some decisions before the trade deadline. The team already cut ties with a few veterans this offseason — Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Za’Darius Smith — and has other names to monitor ahead of the deadline. Danielle Hunter is in a contract year, and Harrison Smith took a pay cut this offseason. Both Pro Bowlers would appeal to other teams, should the Vikings become serious about selling.

Regarding Jefferson’s contract situation, it is unlikely his value would diminish if he aggravated this short-term injury by coming back too soon. The 2020 first-rounder will enter the offseason in position to command an extension that separates him from his peers, presenting the Vikings with a potentially challenging negotiation. Jefferson’s stats will obviously take a hit this year, but a secure long-term outlook will allow him to take his time in recovering, especially if the team remains under .500 when he is due back.

Kirk Cousins could theoretically join Smith and Hunter as a high-profile trade chip, being unsigned beyond this season and agreeing to an offseason restructure that dropped his 2023 base salary to $10MM. But the sixth-year Vikings starter holds a no-trade clause. He has indicated several times he would prefer to stay in Minnesota and did not address the topic (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) when asked if he would waive his clause to be moved this season.

The Vikings cannot realistically tag Cousins in 2024, due to the two Washington tags that led him to the Twin Cities in 2018, giving the team an interesting scenario with its longtime starter. Cousins, 35, can set himself up for yet another payday by playing well this season. With the QB not expecting to discuss another contract until after the season, the Vikes will soon find themselves in a time crunch. Jefferson’s absence stands to impact this, however, and it will be interesting to see if Cousins adjusts his stance if the Vikes continue to stumble.

Cousins reaching the market would put him in position for a fourth lucrative contract, and ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano notes an AFC exec mentioned Derek Carr‘s $37.5MM-per-year Saints deal as a good comp for Cousins. Then again, Cousins has posted better numbers than Carr and has navigated the financial landscape about as well as anyone in NFL history. But the ex-fourth-rounder will be going into his age-36 season in 2024, limiting his value to some degree. This process will put the Vikings to a decision, as Cousins’ abilities may lead to the team winning enough games to move out of realistic range to nab a replacement near the top of the draft.

The Vikings used a fifth-round pick on Jaren Hall in April; as of now, the BYU product is Cousins’ backup. Nick Mullens moved to IR on Wednesday, and ex-Cousins backup Sean Mannion returned to the practice squad. Prior to reacquiring Mannion, the Vikings worked out Colt McCoy, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer tweets. McCoy, 37, has been a free agent since the Cardinals released him just before the season. While he was connected to both the Patriots and Jets recently, the journeyman backup is still unattached.