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Justin Jefferson isn't ready to talk about the future yet

Vikings' star receiver talked about his love for Kirk Cousins but avoided questions about his contract on Wednesday

EAGAN — Last week against the Detroit Lions, Justin Jefferson did absolutely everything in his power to overcome turnovers by backup quarterback Nick Mullens — from recovering a fumble to converting third-and-27 in the waning moments — yet the Minnesota Vikings still came up short on a final drive interception on a pass that fluttered short of the star receiver. Following the game a frustrated Jefferson urged the public to appreciate starter Kirk Cousins.

“This is a tough league and not everybody is fit for this job so it’s tough not having [Cousins] out there.” Jefferson said.

On Wednesday, Jefferson reiterated his gratitude for his long-time starting quarterback, who has been out since Week 8 when he suffered a torn Achilles.

“People don’t see what goes on in the building, they don’t see the relationships that go on, they don’t see the connections that go on and me and Kirk have a great connection, even when he’s not throwing the ball,” Jefferson said. “It’s definitely tough without him being there. His knowledge of the game, his awareness, it’s a piece missing.”

Of course, multiple four-interception games by Vikings backups are enough to make anyone appreciate a Pro Bowl QB who boasted a 103.8 quarterback rating before he went down for the year but Jefferson’s opinion means more than most in the locker room because of the uncertain future of the Vikings QB position. Last year at the NFL Combine, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah noted that the team would loop Jefferson into conversations about the future direction because of his value to the franchise.

Does that mean Jefferson will be pushing for Cousins, who is a free agent after this year, to return as the Vikings’ quarterback next year?

“I really don’t have to voice my opinion that much, you can really just look at the stats and look at the play, especially before he went down this year, but I will definitely always give that extra word for Kirk-O,” Jefferson said.

The Vikings’ top receiver, who still has 823 yards this season despite only appearing in eight games, has his own decision to make this offseason on whether to sign a long-term contract extension. During training camp the team and Jefferson’s side negotiated until right before the season in attempts to get a deal done but they could not agree on terms before Week 1. Jefferson did not want to continue negotiations into the season.

Will the Vikings’ direction at QB impact how Jefferson views his own contract status?

“I feel like that’s a question for later on down the line…it’s more focused on winning the rest of this season and doing what I have to do,” Jefferson said.

If Jefferson signs, he is expected to reset the receiver market, which is currently topped by Tyreek Hill at $30 million average annual value and AJ Brown with $56 million in fully guaranteed dollars. If he chooses not to sign an extension, the Vikings could still franchise tag him.

As far as the here and now, the team did not make its QB decision clear on Wednesday as both Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall took a few snaps with the first-team offensive line during the short walk-through period open to the media. Head coach Kevin O’Connell is expected to announce whether it will be Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall or Josh Dobbs on Thursday.

On the possibility of Hall starting, Jefferson said this about the rookie QB:

“I feel like he’s been doing a great job of learning,” Jefferson said. “It’s been a tough year battling with the injury in his first game he started…I feel like Jaren is a great quarterback, he’s definitely some potential to spark this offense if we put him out there to play but we have confidence in whoever.”

Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson makes a diving catch against the Detroit Lions.

Additional notes

— Wes Phillips talked about what factors go into deciding whether to start Jaren Hall:

“There is an unknown factor for a guy that just hasn’t played a lot of NFL football,” the Vikings’ OC said. “We liked a lot of the things we saw in a very small sample size against Atlanta before he got hurt but there are some things we just don’t know ultimately in those situations….but you feel like you know the person, you know his day-to-day work ethic, you know his preparation…you are betting on those traits when you’re putting him in the game.”

— The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that Jared Allen is a finalist for the 2024 Hall of Fame induction.

It is a stacked class that includes: Eric Allen, Willie Anderson, Jahri Evans, Dwight Freeney, Antonio Gates, Rodney Harrison, Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Julius Peppers, Fred Taylor, Reggie Wayne, Patrick Willis, Darren Woodson.

— Both the Vikings and Packers had stacked injury reports on Wednesday.

For the Vikings, Jordan Addison, Mekhi Blackmon, Theo Jackson, Byron Murphy Jr., Jalen Nailor and Jaquelin Roy did not practice. Sheldon Day, Troy Dye, Alexander Mattison and Harrison Phillips were limited. On the good news side, Brian O’Neill was a full participant.

For the Packers, LB De’Vondre Campbell, OL Elgton Jenkins, WR Christian Watson and WR Dontayvion Wicks did not participate. Also the Packers announced they are suspending CB Jaire Alexander for Sunday night’s game after he went out for the coin toss despite not being named a captain last week.