Minnesota Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is almost certain to receive one of the biggest contracts ever given out to a non-quarterback at some point in the future. He just doesn't seem to be sweating when that will happen.
That doesn't mean Jefferson, 24, is in the dark about his value. But as the 2023 NFL season is set to begin, Jefferson isn't taking an aggressive approach to the state of his contract negotiations.
"Of course I would want a contract to be done," Jefferson told reporters on Thursday, per ESPN. "But at the end of the day, it is all up to (the Vikings) and what the ownership wants to do with that."
Everything that Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has said publicly is unquestionably supportive of Jefferson and that the team intends to get a deal done with Jefferson eventually. Some players prefer not to have their contract negotiations bleed over into the regular season, viewing it as a distraction from their work. But when asked if that was an issue for him personally, Jefferson volleyed the onus back to the Vikings: "It's up to them."
The fourth-year pro has gotten off to one of the greatest starts in league history at his position through a player's third season, averaging a mind-blowing 96.5 receiving yards over his first 50 career games. His 4,825 receiving yards are more than any player has ever totaled through their first three seasons in the history of the league, too.
Last season, Jefferson led the NFL in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809) and was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year.
"I'm in a different situation," Jefferson said on Thursday. "I've done something that no one has ever done in the history of the game. So my situation is a little bit different than everyone else's.
"Of course, I'm going into my fourth year, trying to talk about contract (stuff) two years early. There's so many different parts that go in towards it. That's why I leave it up to my agent and just keep my mindset on the field."
The Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill currently has the highest average salary per year at wide receiver, at $30 million per year. It's not difficult to imagine Jefferson blowing past that.
The 2020 first-round pick has a guaranteed salary of just under $2.4 million this season and is set to be paid $19.7 million in 2024 under his fifth-year option, which the Vikings picked up last summer. Minnesota also potentially could franchise tag Jefferson in 2025 if a deal is not reached by then.
But there could be a lot more flexibility next offseason if the Vikings allow quarterback Kirk Cousins to become a free agent. Cousins has helped Jefferson reach a high peak early in his career, but the Vikings might not be able to pay both market value. Jefferson understands the nature of the business, but he told reporters that he'd love to keep working with the only starting quarterback he's really known in the NFL.
"It's a part of the business. It's kind of really hard to say," Jefferson said. "Of course I would love for Kirk to continue to be my quarterback. ... But again, I don't control that. That's up to the team and up to Kirk. But of course I would love to have Kirk and continue my journey with Kirk."
The Vikings kick off their 2023 season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.