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Vikings lock up Justin Jefferson: Three reasons why Minnesota all but aced 2024 NFL offseason

After much ado, Justin Jefferson is locked up for the long haul in Minnesota, with the Vikingsย signing the star wide receiver Monday to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $140 million, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

The record deal, which ties Jefferson to the Vikings through 2028, doesn’t just bring a rich resolution to a much-discussed contract saga, resetting the wide receiver market and keeping one of the game’s top playmakers where he began his NFL career. It also confirms that Minnesota effectively aced the 2024 offseason, at least on paper.

Here are three reasons why:

1. They retained an elite lineup of skill weapons

By locking up Jefferson (at a perfectly reasonable rate, by the way, considering fellow wideouts like A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown recently cleared $30 million per year on their extensions), the Vikings enter 2024 with some of the best — and financially motivated — playmakers in the league. Consider their top offensive talent:

Jones is obviously a one-year rental, and Hockenson is coming off a serious injury, but most teams would kill to have a foursome of this caliber. Jefferson and Addison have both the athletic upside and proven NFL ability to become arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league. And even Jones, the oldest of the bunch, showed game-changing juice at the tail end of 2023, and figures to benefit from a shared backfield in Minnesota.

2. They finally opened new possibilities at quarterback

You can’t do much with skill weapons if you don’t have a signal-caller to distribute the rock, and while the Vikings said goodbye to a proven commodity in Kirk Cousins this offseason, they also opened themselves to the possibility of higher upside over the longer term. The best part: They still have the supporting cast (see above) to help newcomers J.J. McCarthy and Sam Darnold potentially provide Cousins-comparable results right away.

Are the Vikings likelier to make the playoffs without Cousins? Perhaps not. But likable and relatively stable as he was, Cousins also led just a single postseason victory in six expensive years as “the guy.” Meaning the ceiling never felt particularly high with him under center. Darnold has an even spottier track record as a starter, and McCarthy is a projection as a first-round rookie, but after a promising college run as a poised play-action savant, the latter could emerge as the figurehead of Kevin O’Connell’s offense sooner rather than later.

3. They added upside to an already-tough defense

Even with enticing unknowns under center and all-star talent out wide, the Vikings aren’t going to make serious noise in the NFC North if they don’t also win in the trenches. Fortunately, Christian Darrisaw, Dalton Risner and Co. give them a solid front on offense. On defense, meanwhile, the interior should benefit greatly from a pass-rushing rotation that lost the imposing Danielle Hunter but gained a deeper slew of younger options, including former Houston Texans standout Jonathan Greenard and first-round rookie Dallas Turner.

Throw in ex-Texans linebacker Blake Cashman and former Miami Dolphins rusher Andrew Van Ginkel, and defensive coordinator Brian Flores should have more tools at his disposal after a 2023 debut in which his Vikings often overachieved to stay competitive. The secondary isn’t without questions, but coupled with the offensive talent and the O’Connell-led coaching staff, the Vikings register as one of the more balanced teams across the NFL — so much so they might well find themselves immediately back in the playoff picture.

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Author: Cody Benjamin
June 3, 2024 | 10:35 am

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