Justin Jefferson’s Guarantees Could Approach $100 Million

The Minnesota Vikings superstar is one of several receivers waiting on a contract extension. Plus, the situation in Dallas with CeeDee Lamb, Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons, and more in Albert Breer’s Tuesday notes. 
Jefferson is sitting out OTAs while he waits on a contract extension.
Jefferson is sitting out OTAs while he waits on a contract extension. / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL spring meeting in Nashville is on deck, which means a bunch of coaches getting the chance to hobnob with owners, and those owners voting on how they can interview those coaches in January. As for what else is happening, let’s jump in …

• A lot of ink will be spilled and airwaves filled with receiver contract negotiations in the coming weeks, and there are none bigger than those involving the Minnesota Vikings and Justin Jefferson. So let’s start with the obvious. He wasn’t at the team facility Monday, and that was expected. He also missed a chunk of last year’s OTAs to train in Miami. He said, at the time, it was to pursue endorsement opportunities.

But he also conceded to me, when we talked about it last summer, that the life-changing second contract he had coming would fulfill “a dream of mine. It’s been a dream since I was 7 years old.”

Jefferson has certainly been patient with that dream, playing last year without a new contract, and going through this offseason without one while Detroit Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown got paid and A.J. Brown got another contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. And those two deals are benchmarks moving forward. St. Brown’s deal was advertised at $28 million per year, while Brown’s contract was at $32 million annually. And what’s most interesting about their deals is how quickly the money comes.

Brown’s due $80 million over the first three years of his revised contract, which is a nice bump over the $68 million he’d previously been owed for that period of time. And St. Brown landed $63.386 million over the first three years of his new deal. He’d been owed $3.366 million in the final year of his rookie deal, which means he’s getting $60 million in new money for the two new years.

Because Jefferson is also going into the final year of a rookie contract, the St. Brown deal is easier to apply to his situation. And since Jefferson is owed $19.743 million on his fifth-year option, the apples-to-apples equivalent of his deal to St. Brown would bring him about $80 million over the next three years. Give him the bump for—all due respect to St. Brown—being a better player, and waiting an extra year … do you go to $90 million over the next three years? Or $100 million?

Two years ago, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs and Brown all did deals with guarantees in the high $60 million- to low $70-million range over their first three years. Going to $90-$100 million, of course, would be quite a jump. Then, again, Jefferson is quite a player.

And, of course, if he signs before CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins, you can expect the price tag on those guys to rise a bunch, too.


• In the course of talking to Chicago’s Matt Eberflus, Washington’s Dan Quinn and New England’s Jerod Mayo about their handling of the quarterbacks that went with the first three picks in the NFL draft for my column Monday, I did bring up the notion of a defensive-rooted head coach leading the way on developing a franchise player at that position.

 

One of the first things Eberflus said he’s noticed having Caleb Williams in-house is how he “understands where the space is” in a defense. Quinn, separately, said a defensive coach’s expertise in that area, and the understanding of how it’s condensed in the pro game—with taller, longer, faster players and tighter hash marks—can help a young quarterback come along. Mayo, again, on his own, also spoke about the same dynamic.

 

"The game is about space,” he said. “Maybe you don't understand the lingo or how to get into the intricacies of offense. But at the same time, I study offense. I understand the space on the field from an offensive and defensive perspective. I feel very confident about our offensive staff. But at the same time, I can say, ‘This is what I’m thinking about. This space in the field, we need to attack this space.’”

 

Anyway, it seemed interesting to me that all three guys, when talking about developing their quarterbacks, brought it up on their own.


Dallas Cowboys defensive end Micah Parsons
Parsons has 40.5 sacks in his first three seasons with the Cowboys. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

• With a lot of focus on new deals for Lamb and Dak Prescott in Dallas, it’s worth keeping an eye on Micah Parsons’s absence from the team’s OTAs.

The Cowboys picked up Parsons’s fifth-year option in May and, in doing so, designated him as a defensive end rather than a linebacker. That put his guaranteed money for 2025 at $21.324 million rather than the $24.007 million he’d have gotten had the team gone the other way. He’s also eligible for an extension now, and the lower number materially impacts his leverage. On top of that, Dallas has been riding a trend of making stars wait for new deals.

Since the current system went into place, Dallas has given top-of-market second contracts to three home-grown first-round picks. The first two, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, got extensions after three years, which is where Parsons is now. Zack Martin, conversely, had to wait until after his fourth-year, despite making first-team All-Pro in two of his first three years (he was second-team All-Pro the other year). Zeke Elliott had to hold out until September to get his second contract after three years, and Lamb is still waiting after four years.

Then, there’s Prescott, who was franchise tagged twice before getting his second contract. The only guy who got his money at a player-friendly rate and got it early was Elliott, who had to rattle cages to get there.

So if you’re Parsons, what do you do? Do you stay patient? Or do you take the Elliott route, knowing that fines for missing mandatory team activities (such as minicamp and training camp) are forgivable because you’re still on a rookie deal, and that the team just took about $3 million in real money and negotiating leverage away from you? It seems like, based on all of this history, a pretty easy decision to make, particularly at a time when 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa just pushed the market for the position into the mid-$30-million-per-year range.

It also illustrates some surprising decision-making by a team that’s drafted and developed really well over the past 20 years or so. It feels at least like Jerry Jones keeps stepping on the same rake in not paying great players earlier rather than later, which applies not just to Parsons, but also Prescott and Lamb. Because as Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase get paid, the price of Dallas’s stars won’t go down.


• I wouldn’t make too much of Tee Higgins’s absence from Bengals’ OTAs. Franchised players who choose not to sign their tenders almost never show for the offseason program. I don’t know why anyone would expect this situation to be any different.

I would say, though, that it’ll give the Bengals a good chance to get a long look at third-round pick Jermaine Burton with the starters.


• The NFL does have “ownership matters” on the agenda for the spring meeting. However, those bullet points concern the Chiefs (involving a change in the ownership trustees) and Falcons (involving a minority stake in the franchise), and not the Raiders. So I wouldn’t expect much news on Tom Brady’s purchase of a share of Mark Davis’s franchise this week.


• The Titans are taking the occasion of the league meeting being in Nashville this week to promote the work they’ve done on the new Nissan Stadium, the team’s new domed home which is set to open in 2027. You can guess that a big part of that would be to showcase what the exploding Middle Tennessee metropolis could be a Super Bowl host city, and perhaps as soon as when it’d be first eligible (Super Bowl LXIII in February ’29).


• The news of Cole Strange being expected to miss the start of the season, delivered by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, isn’t a huge surprise. But it could have a trickle-down effect in the New England Patriots’s willingness to put Drake Maye out there as a rookie. The stronger the line play, I’d say, the better chance we see Maye sooner than later. And while Strange hasn’t nearly justified his draft position yet, he is a starter for the team.


• Jamal Adams is visiting the Ravens this week, and I love the fit there. No one does better with hybrid players on defense than Baltimore, with guys such as Kyle Hamilton enabling the mountain of disguise the coaches employ on that side of the ball (assuming new DC Zach Orr doesn’t veer too far from what Mike Macdonald and Wink Martindale did). Adams is perfect for that, as a safety-linebacker mix.


Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence had only 21 touchdown passes while throwing 14 interceptions in 2023. / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

• I think Trevor Lawrence will get a deal done before training camp, and the Jaguars are smart to be working through that now. While he hasn’t lived up to the “generational” reputation he had as a prospect, he’s been pretty good, and still has an absolute ton of room for growth. So today’s contract for him could wind up looking pretty good juxtaposed with what tomorrow’s Trevor might look like.


• That Kirk Cousins is largely out there (with some restriction) for OTAs, and Aaron Rodgers is, as we said in Monday’s takeaways he would be, all the way out there is a pretty good sign that an Achilles rupture isn’t what it once was for pro athletes. Which is great news.


• Denzel Perryman’s Jim Harbaugh–Will Ferrell comp is the comp I wish I’d thought of before. The cadence. The delivery. The awkward pauses. Spot on.


Published
Albert Breer

ALBERT BREER