Why Justin Jefferson’s massive contract is worth every penny for Vikings

Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is also the simplest.

The Minnesota Vikings had a developing contract situation on their hands with the best wide receiver in football, Justin Jefferson. There were rumors of trading him to move up for a QB in the draft, or even one to move up for another receiver in this draft class.

Instead, the Vikings opted to do the simple, smart thing.

Paying Justin Jefferson always seemed like the smartest and likeliest thing the Vikings were going to do. You don’t let receivers like him hit the open market, and with Minnesota undergoing a reset at the QB position, it seems pretty smart to have the best receiver in football locked in for a long time. Jefferson has always been phenomenal, but what he’s done under Kevin O’Connell is nothing short of astounding. By extending Jefferson, Minnesota ensures that the engine to their offense stays in place.

Not only have they ensured that their best offensive player stays in place with the Jefferson extension, the Vikings have prioritized their young core, which has a lot of talent and room to elevate their rookie QB. In order to truly see what a young QB has got, an organization needs to surround him with playmakers, playcalling and protection. For the most part, the Vikings currently have that all in hand. Tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill are the most underrated tackle duo in the NFL (the interior still needs work though). Jefferson, second-year WR Jordan Addison and TE TJ Hockenson round out an exciting young trio of skill position players, and head coach Kevin O’Connell has gotten the best out of his QBs in his time there. While the Vikings are going through this period of figuring out if QB JJ McCarthy is the real deal, their star talent will both keep them afloat and help them see if that’s the case for their rookie.

The Vikings’ long term investments as a team could be very similar to other teams that didn’t invest high capital in a QB until they absolutely needed to, instead opting to draft guys like Darrisaw, Addison and Jefferson in the first round. Their bet is twofold: that any QB can come in and get this offense running to a baseline level, but the ceiling will be exponentially higher with a talented QB under center. The bet Minnesota is making is a little like San Francisco: having the superstar talent at valuable positions like receiver and tight end will allow for some leeway at the QB position, but if a young QB on a rookie deal is talented enough to raise the ceiling, it could make the thing hum a lot faster and a lot more effectively.

In addition, the Vikings’ offensive core is still all young, for the most part. Right tackle Brian O’Neill might be the oldest of the core and he’s 28 years old. By still ensuring that the young offensive stars of this group will be around for the long run, they ensure that the foundation for the growth of their young QB is in place. It’s difficult to get an airplane up to top speed on a bad runway, and the Vikings have made sure that their runway for their QB is in top shape.

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