MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings open the 2023 regular season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium, and Justin Jefferson will do so without a new contract.
Despite efforts from the team and Jefferson's representation throughout the offseason, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement this week on a long-term extension to keep the star wide receiver in Minnesota. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, they plan to resume talks after the 2023 season.
Jefferson spoke with reporters at TCO Performance Center on Thursday, and while he said he wants a new contract, his focus is on the season and facing the Buccaneers on Sunday.
"I’m just here to play football like always, and leave all of that other stuff up to them. Of course I would want a contract to be done, but at the end of the day it’s all up to them and what the ownership wants to do with that," Jefferson said. "My focus is on playing football and doing something I’m good at. I’m good at being on that field and catching the football, and that’s what I continue to do."
Jefferson, the No. 22 overall pick in 2020 NFL Draft, has two years remaining on his rookie contract. The Vikings acquired the draft pick in the trade that sent Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills.
Jefferson likely wants to be the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL. That currently belongs to Nick Bosa, who agreed to a five-year extension worth up to $170 million. Earlier this week, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow agreed to a five-year, $275 million extension, with $219 million guaranteed.
Jefferson led the NFL in 2022 with 128 catches for 1,809 yards, and added eight touchdowns last season.
Jefferson won NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2022, has been to three straight Pro Bowls and was selected First-Team All-Pro last season. Next up for the Vikings’ star is chasing down Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964 receiving yards.
In three career seasons, Jefferson has 324 catches for 4,825 yards, both franchise and NFL records for a player in his first three seasons. Jefferson also has 25 career touchdowns.
Jefferson did not participate in the Vikings’ voluntary offseason workout program, igniting some fears that he wouldn’t show up for practice without a new contract. Those were put to bed when Jefferson showed up for mandatory mini camp all smiles, and said he would let his representation handle new contract talks.
He also reported to training camp on time, and did not miss a single practice. Vikings’ General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said at the NFL Combine keeping Jefferson in Minnesota long-term was among his top priorities, and talks were ongoing throughout the offseason.
It's in the Vikings' best interests to reach a new deal before his current contract expires.