Will Vikings get Justin Jefferson signed before Week 1?

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The Vikings have arguably the best receiver in the NFL under contract for two more years. Will they get that contract extended before the regular season starts?

Albert Breer of SI.com writes that the Vikings are “making an effort” to make it happen before Week 1. Making an effort and making it happen are, obviously, two different things.

We’ve written about the situation during the offseason. The Vikings do not typically use full guarantees that vest beyond the current year. They made an exception for quarterback Kirk Cousins. Unless they make that same exception for Jefferson, the deal might not get done in the short term — or in the long term.

To his credit, Jefferson is all in for 2023. He has not let his unsettled status affect him, even though he’s due to make a paltry $2.399 million in 2023.

The Vikings presumably will make their best offer before September 10. Will Jefferson take it, or will he roll the dice on getting more after the season?

For Jefferson, the risk is injury. For the Vikings, the risk is Jefferson will decide to not be so nice about the situation.

We’ve seen it with multiple great receivers in recent years, from Tyreek Hill to Davante Adams to A.J. Brown. An extension doesn’t happen, and the relationship becomes fractured.

The Vikings need to realize what they have in Jefferson and get the deal done, before he decides that he wants to go elsewhere. And they should not assume he won’t realize at some point that they have failed to fully appreciate what they have.

There’s one other wrinkle to consider, if the Vikings are truly thinking about trying to get themselves in position to draft a franchise quarterback in 2024. If rookie first-rounder Jordan Addison quickly develops into a player who could, in theory, replace most of Jefferson’s production in the offense, might the Vikings use Jefferson as part of a package to get into the top five of the next draft?

It sounds crazy on the surface. But great receivers can’t win championships without great quarterbacks who can — and who will — get them the ball in big spots. Last year, with the season on the line, Kirk Cousins should have thrown the ball up to Jefferson and let him do what we’ve seen him do, time and again. Cousins didn’t do it.

What if the Vikings decide giving up Jefferson is the key to getting a quarterback who can do what Cousins can’t or won’t do? The guy they get, whoever it might be, would then get the ball to the likes of Addison or tight end T.J. Hockenson or whoever else the Vikings develop at the skill positions.

No matter how good any receiver is, and Jefferson truly is one of the very best, he can only do what the quarterback allows him to do. Until the Vikings have a quarterback who will trust Jefferson under any and all circumstances, the Vikings aren’t getting the most out of him.

The easiest way to short-circuit such theories is to just pay Jefferson and be done with it. Will the Vikings do it? Will they secure Jefferson for the long haul?

In answering that question, ask yourself another question. What happened with Randy Moss? Percy Harvin? Stefon Diggs?

Ultimately, if the Vikings want folks to not think they’re thinking about using the NFL’s best receiver as a potential bargaining chip to help land the franchise’s first true franchise quarterback since Fran Tarkenton, there’s one way to do it. Get the deal done, even if it means using guarantees that don’t vest one year at a time.

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