Thoughts on Justin Jefferson’s $140M Contract Extension with the Vikings

The Vikings and WR Justin Jefferson agreed on a historic four year, $140 million contract today that really creates on the rare true market moving contracts, something we have not really seen at the receiver position since the days of Larry Fitzgerald in his prime. Pro Football Talk has the breakdown of the contract so we can evaluate just how strong this contract really is.

The wide receiver market has been one of the more difficult markets to really explain due to the contracts signed by Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams in 2022 that had paper APY’s of $30 million and $28 million per year, respectively. However, upon closer look at the contract breakdowns the legitimate values on those deals were more in the range of $25 and $22.5 million per year. They set a weird precedent where many receivers in the NFL were receiving ballon salaries on the backend of their contracts to artificially inflate the values of the contracts  which makes it harder to understand where the market truly is. Jefferson’s contact does not use those same mechanisms to inflate the annual value of the contract.

I would consider the WR market, prior to this deal, to be around $28.5 million per year.  That would include Amon-Ra St Brown at a true value of $28 million, Jaylen Waddle at $28.25 million, and AJ Brown at $28.4 million. To get from $28.4 to 35 million a year would indicate a 23.2% market increase which is absolutely gigantic. You simply do not see moves like that today because it is rare for a player to have that kind of leverage on a team nor for a player to have a skill level that has consistently been better than anyone else at the position.

The cash flows on this one obliterate any of the current market deals.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Justin Jefferson$18,320,000$50,250,000$76,000,000$106,000,000$140,000,000
Amon-Ra St. Brown$14,500,000$31,910,000$60,020,000$84,000,000$120,010,000
Jaylen Waddle$16,135,000$33,376,000$57,376,000$84,750,000FA
A.J. Brown$30,000,000$59,000,000$80,000,000$111,000,000

The guarantees tell a similar story where Jefferson has $110M guaranteed for injury, $88.7M of which is fully guaranteed at signing. The other players at the position are around $80M injury and far less fully guaranteed.

This brings us back to a point that was made, perhaps mistakenly, by Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah where he indicated that Jefferson did deserve to be compensated as one of the highest paid players in the NFL which I said at the time meant the Vikings had to use Nick Bosa as the comp and that is exactly what they did. Here is the comparison of cash flows between Bosa and Jefferson.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Justin Jefferson$18,320,000$50,250,000$76,000,000$106,000,000$140,000,000
Nick Bosa$32,100,471$48,955,471$79,641,000$102,821,000$136,000,000

There is a little give and take on both sides here but it seems pretty clear that this is the contract that the Vikings were having to work with rather than anything in the receiver market. The guarantees are also similar as Bosa received $122.5M in injury protection and $88M fully guaranteed at signing.

So this is truly a contract that exceeds the market by far more than people realize and values Jefferson in line with a totally different group of players.

Should the Vikings have done this contract sooner?  I would think so, but it depends on how focused Jefferson’s side was on matching or exceeding Bosa from the start. My opinion of Jefferson all of last year was that he would be the first receiver to get a legit $30 million a year contract which would have been about $5-6 million a year more than the position.  By waiting the Vikings allowed the receiver market to move up near $30 million which was always going to make it easier for Jefferson to hit the Bosa range. So the number being this far above the real market does not surprise me but it would be interesting to see where it would have been prior to Devonta Smith really changing the 1A type receiver market or Penei Sewell driving up the offensive player values.  

I know people are seeing this as a launching point for Ja’Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb, etc… and while it may happen I don’t really see that. I don’t think people are used to seeing contracts like this where the market is totally shaken up by the contract. Once the rookie wage scale came into play in 2011 it just made it incredibly difficult for players to really set market tops. Basically, it has been Aaron Donald and Nick Bosa and that’s about it in the modern era.

Maybe I am wrong and teams do not have the stomach for arguing about how much better another player is or how much his contract is an outlier, but Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were basically untouchable a generation ago. Aaron Donald was untouchable. Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha were untouchable years ago. Jefferson should fit that same mold.

Jefferson’s numbers since he came into the league really blow away the rest of the league. In his four years in the NFL he has averaged 98.3 yards per game. Tyreek Hill is the only other player over 90 yards (92.7) over that timeframe. Chase is at 82.6. Lamb at 78. In the last three years it has been Jefferson at 10.23 yards and Hill at 95 with Cooper Kupp third at 92. Lamb is at 84 in that time. If you are one of the teams with a great young wide receiver and you go above this deal you are making a mistake, IMO.

Where this should impact the market is pulling up some of the others. At some point the cap grows enough to where a contract becomes obsolete and will be overtaken. That is probably two to three years from now for this one. This contract being a legit $35 million a year should now get rid of the nonsense of throwing fake money years on the backend of a young players contract to hit an APY (though there is probably a good chance a few veterans may do that) and legitimize a market at $30-$33 million a year for these other players. It should also pull up the guarantees. To me this is where Dallas and Cincy lose because its not working off $28.5 million a year and how much funny money to throw in for year 4 or 5 but working on a legit $120M deal for four years.

Overall, I think that we are going to see much more discussion in the next two to three years about the value of a top wide receiver. While that is a discussion for another time receiver is now established as far and away the 2nd most important position on offense. This kind of a gap between offensive tackle and receiver is pretty big and we have to see how these deals pay off.

Ultimately this is a great deal for Jefferson and I think for the few high end players around the NFL that they can find circumstances to hold out for value that represents being so much better than others. Maybe one of these days QBs will follow suit to really shake up the NFL, but this should at least give a few more players hope that they can make a move at their respective positions even if they don’t hold the most leverage in the world while on a rookie deal.