Vikings face important NFL offseason ahead of Justin Jefferson contract negotiations | News, scores, highlights, stats and rumours

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The Minnesota Vikings are at a crossroads, and it’s the worst possible place for the franchise to be.

The team is good, but certainly not great. Yes, the Vikings won the NFC North last season with a 13-4 record. But the roster needs to be reviewed after winning 11 games by one score, where there is significant year-to-year variance.

Also, the organization’s best young player isn’t a quarterback. he is a great receiver. However, Minnesota should do everything in their power to keep Justin Jefferson as long as possible and let him serve as the face of the franchise.

Basically, Minnesota is stuck in the middle. The Vikings are more likely to overcome adversity in the short term than ultimately push their way to a Super Bowl appearance. That way, significant turnover is likely, starting this offseason.

Hear the klaxon, because the purge has already begun.

The Vikings on Friday was released longtime wide receiver Adam Thielen; In nine seasons after signing as an undrafted free agent, the two-time Pro Bowl honoree caught 534 passes for 6,682 yards and 55 touchdowns. The move creates an additional $6.4 million in salary cap space, per person Minneapolis Star-Tribune‘small Ben Gesling. Although the team will eat $13.6 million of the previous cap amount. Additionally, his departure leaves a void as the second-best offensive threat.

Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen

Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam ThielenMichael Reaves/Getty Images

Four days earlier, linebacker Eric Kendricks found himself in the cutting block. The 31-year-old linebacker led the team with 137 total tackles last season. In fact, he has led the Vikings in tackles seven of the last eight seasons. His exit earned $9.5 million.

Za’Darius Smith might be the next to go. After finishing second on the team last season with 10 sacks, the veteran linebacker has requested his release, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Smith even thanked his teammates and fans Twitter, which essentially signaled his farewell after just one season. Rapoport added that the Vikings have no intention of moving on from the three-time Pro Bowler, but they may be forced to.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has received trade calls about running back Dalvin Cook as well, according to SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson (h/t Dov Kleiman). Even with the moves already made, the Vikings remain in the red before the new league year begins, according to Spotrac. A potential Cook trade saves the team $7.9 million.

Finally, tight end Harrison Smith, 34, and linebacker Jordan Hicks, 31 in June, will be considered deeper cuts.

At this particular juncture, the personnel moves make the situation look like a soft reset, with the goal of a quick turnaround, starting with Jefferson’s contract extension.

“The job is to build a championship team within the time window,” Adofo-Mensah told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. “So, yeah, if I get fired in four years and then all my picks blow, I can’t go back and say, ‘Hey, look at all these people I drafted.’ It’s my job to put it all together in the same time frame, same horizon”.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks to reporters at the 2023 NFL combine.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks to reporters at the 2023 NFL combine. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

“So it’s really, a lot of different lessons that I’ve learned from different studies that I’ve done to put it together, but there’s not just one right way. It’s just a lot of smart, deliberate decisions that you make.”

The ultimate goal must be to preserve Jefferson. He is an outstanding talent as the NFL’s reigning leader in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809). The 2020 first-round draft pick already has the most receptions (324) and receiving yards (4,825) in NFL history through his first three seasons. He even entered the rarified air of Minnesota franchises when he surpassed Randy Moss last season for the most yards ever by a Vikings receiver in a single season.

With three full campaigns under Jefferson’s belt, he entered the window to negotiate a contract extension for the first time. The deal almost certainly resets the wide receiver market, with the top deals in total value ($140 million) and average annual salary ($30 million) going to Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders and Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins. respectively.

“I don’t want to be the GM of the Vikings without this guy on our team,” Adofo-Mensah said. “So it’s a high priority. We have to make sure we do it in the order we can do it, obviously given all the other decisions we have to make.”

The price will be excessive and create a ripple effect throughout the roster. Based on the current market — which already skyrocketed last offseason — the 23-year-old Jefferson and his front office should command $150-160 million and surpass those already at the top.

While re-signing him remains the organization’s top priority, things will almost certainly change in the coming years.

Immediately, the Vikings’ top free agents take a back seat. Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson, center Garrett Bradbury, tight end Irv Smith Jr., Alexander Matheson and cornerbacks Chandon Sullivan and Patrick Peterson will all have a chance to test the market and go elsewhere. Minnesota just doesn’t have the financial flexibility to bring back the majority of them.

Then, the organization will be stuck in the Kirk Cousins ​​vortex once again. Cousins ​​is a quality starter, but not among the best in the league. However, he is good enough to lead a winning team and run the offense as designed. Cousins ​​has done a remarkable job of leveraging teams into big contracts throughout his career. The Vikings will have an option to make with 2023 being a contract year.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (left) and quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​(right).

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (left) and quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​(right). David Berding/Getty Images

Should he continue up front with the 35-year-old quarterback next season or eventually move on to a cheaper, younger and more athletic option? Considering what the Vikings will be forced to pay Jefferson, Cousins’ streak of overachieving in front offices should come to an end. The burden of the franchise will then fall on Jefferson.

“It’s not just about having an elite player. I think people, maybe they appreciate the talent, maybe they don’t. Man, it’s even better to see it in person every day,” the general manager added. “He just wants to win. … He’s trying to put the Minnesota Vikings on his back. He wants to win a championship. When you have people like that in your building, you do everything you can to keep him out.”

Anyone following Cousins ​​will do so knowing they have an elite target in their prime to relieve pressure and provide instant credibility to the entire offense.

“As crazy as it sounds, to lead the league in yards and receptions, I really think he and I have really scratched the surface of where we want to go as an offense – and especially with him as our leading receiver,” Kevin said . O’Connell said into the intercom.

The Vikings may not know exactly which direction they’re going yet, but the franchise knows Jefferson will lead it there. That way, the team will almost certainly be different upon arrival.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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