Justin Jefferson Opens Up About Kirk Cousins Leaving Vikings for Falcons

Jefferson says he's not mad at Kirk Cousins for joining the Atlanta Falcons.
Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks up into the crowd after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks up into the crowd after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Jefferson wanted Kirk Cousins to continue throwing him passes but isn't angry the only starting quarterback he has worked with in the NFL has moved on.

Jefferson opened up about the split on Tuesday's episode of The Rich Eisen Show and reiterated he's not upset Cousins left the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. Cousins landed a four-year, $180 million deal from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, netting himself $100 million in guaranteed money in the process.

When discussing the move, Jefferson said, "I'm not mad at him at all for that ... I feel like he just wanted a new start, a new opportunity to start with Atlanta and a clean slate and I'm not mad at him at all for that. I'm grateful for what he has brought me and the things we have accomplished together."

Jefferson continued, "But at the end of the day, it's a business and you've got to do what you've got to do for yourself and for your family, and I clearly understand that. But it's on to the next. It doesn't really matter what quarterback it is in my eyes. I'm always going to try to make the best of the opportunity."

Sam Darnold is currently penciled in as Minnesota's starting quarterback right now, which will be an adjustment for Jefferson. But the three-time All-Pro receiver praised Darnold during his appearance with Eisen.

The Vikings saw Cousins walk away and selected Michigan's J.J. McCarthy with the 10th pick in the 2024 NFL draft to be his long-term replacement. As of now, McCarthy is slated to enter training camp as Darnold's backup.

Jefferson will be entering his fifth season and has had one of the most prolific four-year stretches by a receiver in NFL history. In 60 games he has caught 392 passes for 5,899 yards and 30 touchdowns. In 2022, he led the league in receptions (128), receiving yards (1,809) and yards per game (106.4), while earning NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors. Despite being limited to 10 games during the 2023 season, he was second in the NFL with an average of 107.4 receiving yards per game.

In June, the Vikings rewarded Jefferson with a four-year, $140 million contract extension that includes $110 million. That annual average of $35 million made him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

With Cousins gone and no proven quarterback on the roster, Jefferson will certainly have to earn that money.


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Ryan Phillips

RYAN PHILLIPS

Ryan Phillips is a senior writer on the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has worked in digital media since 2009, spending eight years at The Big Lead before joining SI in 2024. Phillips also co-hosts The Assembly Call Podcast about Indiana Hoosiers basketball and previously worked at Bleacher Report. He is a proud San Diego native and a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism program.