Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings, 2024 [608x342]
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings, 2024 [608x342] (Credit: Photo by Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

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The news both rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy and Vikings fans have been waiting to hear all offseason finally came across the wire last week: Justin Jefferson isn't going anywhere. After an offseason full of speculation, the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver signed a four-year, $140 million extension that will keep Jefferson in purple and gold for years to come.

There has been a lot of conversation about this deal since it was announced. Yes, $35 million per year is a lot of money, but there also has been chatter about what it means for the league as a whole. Is this a new era for elite wide receivers? Are the top stars getting paid too much? Should the Vikings have traded Jefferson and drafted a wideout to replace him? Should they have waited for CeeDee Lamb or Ja'Marr Chase, two other star wideouts eligible for extensions, to sign first? Will wide receivers be the next running backs, with teams deciding to move on from spending at the position?

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My answers to those questions are mostly no, but there are a lot of topics to touch on when it comes to Jefferson's contract, what the deal means for both the Vikings and the rest of the league, and where wide receiver fits in the NFL landscape. I'll hit on as many of those topics and questions as I can in a deep dive on this deal and the market at the league's most explosive position.

Jump to a topic: Why did Jefferson reset the non-QB market? Is this an unprecedented deal for a WR? Will a rising tide raise all deals for WRs? Could teams instead look toward the draft? Will the WR market move toward the RB market? Which position will be next to take the leap? Will the Vikings regret paying Jefferson?

Why is Jefferson's deal so large?

It depends on your perspective. The NFL is essentially two different leagues when it comes to money: one for quarterbacks, and one for every other position. This deal is less than what Derek Carr and Daniel Jones got when they signed their deals with the Saints and Giants, respectively, last offseason.

The story of why this contract stands out beyond the sheer numbers is nerdy, although it holds meaning when it comes to NFL team-building. The most recent leap in the wide receiver market starts with a deal I covered a couple of years ago, when DeAndre Hopkins signed a two-year, $54.5 million extension in September of 2020. The contract, at least in theory, pushed the wide receiver market north of $27 million per season. Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill followed with their own contracts after being traded in March of 2022, with Hill becoming the first player to average $30 million per season at wide receiver.

Those deals had more bluster and empty calories than typical NFL deals. Hopkins' came with three years left to go on his prior deal; he would be released by the Cardinals before the years of that two-year extension even came due. Hill's four-year, $120 million deal jumps from a $21.8 million base salary in 2025 to a whopping $43.9 million in 2026, all of which is unguaranteed. That number exists solely to make him the first $30 million-per-year receiver on paper -- there's no way he'll play for that amount in reality.

Jefferson's deal, on the other hand, doesn't have the same sort of fake money inflation that the others do. The structure makes it likely he will earn north of $30 million per year in actual take-home pay. In the absolute worst-case scenario, he will earn more than $93 million for two years. That's not going to be where the deal ends. Jefferson would earn just over $98 million if the Vikings moved on after three years, but more realistically, this will be a four-year, $123.8 million pact before there will be real talk about what happens next.

That's not just a deal that resets the wide receiver market. It's a contract that sets a new high for all non-quarterbacks around the NFL. As Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap noted in his breakdown of the deal, Jefferson's cash flow will see him paid far beyond the rates of other wideouts, and it either competes with or tops what edge rusher Nick Bosa received during the first five years of his new deal with the 49ers. Bosa was the prior record holder for the largest non-quarterback deal, having signed a five-year, $170 million deal ($34 million per season) last September.

On one hand, that might seem weird. When Bosa signed his deal, he was coming off a mammoth season in which he led the league with 18.5 sacks and won Defensive Player of the Year. Jefferson, however, missed seven games with a hamstring injury last season and left an eighth after suffering a blow to the chest. He still racked up 1,074 yards in just over half a season's worth of work, but the Vikings were 2-8 when he suited up and 5-2 otherwise. Nobody doubts his talent, but he's not coming off his best season.

So why did he get paid more than Bosa? One important factor is the rise in the NFL's salary cap. While the cap isn't as rigid as other sports when it comes to salaries, the league jumped from a $224.8 million cap in 2022 to a $255.4 million cap in 2023, a rise of nearly 14%. A growing cap produces larger contracts.

There's another factor I bring up a lot that is easy to see in reality here: While most of the debates surrounding NFL contracts are about talent and production, that's not what decides how much players get paid. NFL deals are about leverage. You need talent to have leverage, and production helps illuminate talent, but teams sign contracts out of the fear of losing a player, not as a reward for what he has done before.

Even though Jefferson's 2023 season was altered by injury, the most important thing he did in terms of yielding a larger contract is get one season closer to free agency. He was eligible for an extension last offseason after completing his third pro campaign, but likely owing to a difficult cap situation and Kirk Cousins' deal, Minnesota wasn't able to come to terms with him on an extension last summer.

Last year, the Vikings had four more years of runway before needing to worry about losing Jefferson for free. He was due a total of approximately $76.6 million over that four-year span, with salaries of $2.4 million and $19.7 million in 2023 and 2024, respectively, before two potential franchise tags of $24.7 million in 2025 and $29.7 million in 2026. That's about $19.2 million per year without any future guarantees on a year-to-year basis. That's good money, of course, but not the sort of life-changing security that comes with an elite receiver extension.

After playing out 2023, the situation was different. The Vikings had only three years of cost control over Jefferson before potentially losing him for free, with the $19.7 million fifth-year option in 2024 and tags of $24.7 million in 2025 and $29.7 million in 2026. That's an average of $24.7 million per year, and it's one year closer to free agency. His leverage grew dramatically from one season to the next, and it helped him earn a record-setting deal, even after an injury-impacted campaign.

The ultimate example of this might be the negotiations between Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on their previous deal in 2021. After the sides went back and forth for a couple of offseasons, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury early in the 2020 campaign. Because he was about to hit his second franchise tag in 2021, though, Dallas had no leverage and gave him a deal worth $40 million per season with no-trade and no-tag clauses, even after a season in which he was sidelined for most of the campaign. Prescott is now about to parlay that leverage into an even larger contract, but more on the Cowboys a little later.

Is this an unprecedented deal for a wide receiver?

Not really, no. While an average salary of $35 million is the most in terms of sheer cash for a non-quarterback in the history of the league, Jefferson's deal is in line with those of great wideouts from the past.

Again, considering salaries in the context of how the cap has risen tells us a lot more about the market than simply looking at the cash being paid out. Jefferson's $35 million average salary comes in a year in which the salary cap is $255.4 million. Divide one by the other and you'll find Jefferson's salary represents 13.7% of the cap.

That's actually behind the Hill (14.8%) and Adams (13.8%) contracts, although we've covered why there's some fluff on the back end of those deals. More realistic comparisons might be to players who led the market a decade ago. In August 2011, Larry Fitzgerald signed a seven-year, $113 million deal against a salary cap of $120 million. His massive extension averaged $16.1 million per year, which was 13.5% of the salary cap at the time.

The following year, with the cap going up by only $600,000 from 2011, we saw another star wideout top Fitzgerald's deal. Calvin Johnson's seven-year, $113.5 million extension from 2012 amounted to $16.2 million per season, which was 13.4% of the cap. Those were the largest wideout contracts, adjusted for the rising cap, until the Hopkins deal kicked off this most recent era of wide receiver battles.

Those deals were also the largest for any non-quarterback, adjusting for cap. No contract at another position topped them until 2015, when defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh hit free agency and joined the Dolphins. Defenders T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Bosa then earned bigger extensions on their deals between 2021 and 2023, respectively, before Jefferson reclaimed the top spot for wide receivers.

In other words, this isn't anything new. Elite wide receivers already were being treated as the most valuable non-quarterbacks in the league a decade ago when Fitzgerald and Johnson signed their deals. The deals for Hopkins, Adams and Hill reclaimed that title from Suh, and the Jefferson deal has won it back after Bosa took it over. The title of most valuable non-quarterback in football, at least by the market, has been traded between wide receivers and pass-rushers throughout the past decade.

Don't be surprised if that trend continues. Micah Parsons is in line for a record-setting deal with the Cowboys, and so is teammate CeeDee Lamb. Each could expect to top $35 million per season on their new extensions. Ja'Marr Chase could be next up for the Bengals. Jefferson isn't an outlier in terms of investment. He's the latest in a series of elite wide receivers getting paid accordingly.

Will a rising tide raise all deals for wideouts?

Sorry, the Jefferson deal isn't going to help every receiver. If anything, it might hurt some veterans who see themselves as something closer to middle-class starters at the position. While Jefferson and other unquestionably elite wideouts are either paid or on their way to getting a deal done, the tiers of wideouts below them have had a brutal past few offseasons.

If an unquestioned WR1 is worth $35 million per year, what should a WR2 expect to land on the open market? Half? That's $17.5 million per season. Maybe guys who lean more toward the WR1 range are looking at $20 million per year, while those who aren't quite at that level consistently could be in the range of $12 million to $15 million.

That makes sense in theory, but it's not how teams value wide receivers in reality. The value curve for wideouts isn't flat and steady; it's more of an inverted bell curve, with a number of receivers at the peak and the bottom without much in between.

The dream contract for wide receivers in this range is the four-year, $72 million deal Christian Kirk signed with the Jaguars before the 2022 season. (There was talk at the time his deal created havoc in the wide receiver market for elite wideouts, but that was more a product of Hopkins than Kirk.) Desperate for help for Trevor Lawrence after the Urban Meyer fiasco, the Jags paid over the odds to land a pass-catcher who had been a potential cut candidate the prior offseason. Kirk is a useful starter, but even the Jags didn't think he was a No. 1 wideout, as we saw from their trade for Calvin Ridley later that year.

Did the Kirk deal kick off a series of contracts where good-but-not-great receivers got contracts approaching $20 million per year? Not particularly. There haven't been many No. 2 wideouts who landed contracts larger than his since March 2022. There are teams that gave out big deals to two receivers who might be considered No. 1s, including A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in Philadelphia, but every deal larger than Kirk's has typically gone to a player who most people would have considered a legit WR1 as opposed to a secondary option.

In the meantime, wide receivers who were in that range between $10 million and $20 million have seen their value dry up. Injuries have played a significant role, but think about how many veterans who had deals in this range have been uprooted over the past year or so:

Amari Cooper was about to be a cap casualty in Dallas before the Browns traded a Day 3 pick to acquire him in 2022. The Cowboys used the savings to sign Michael Gallup to a five-year, $57.5 million deal, but Gallup didn't look the same after returning from a torn ACL and was cut for cap reasons this offseason. Brandin Cooks eventually became Cooper's replacement in Dallas as the WR2 behind Lamb. There wasn't a great trade market for him in 2023, and the Cowboys ended up landing him for fifth- and sixth-round picks. Cooks and Cooper weren't the only ones traded for less than expected. The Steelers shipped off Diontae Johnson to the Panthers this spring for cornerback Donte Jackson, who was likely to otherwise be cut, and a Day 3 pick swap. Those guys weren't forced to take pay cuts, but they were all traded for less than their production and talent would have suggested. Many others were cut, with injuries to blame. Mike Williams was a cap casualty with the Chargers after his torn ACL and signed a deal for half his prior salary with the Jets. Michael Thomas was let go after making $10 million with the Saints in 2023. Russell Gage had his option declined after two injury-hit years in Tampa Bay. Hunter Renfrow was released by the Raiders after losing his starting job to Jakobi Meyers, one of the few midrange successes at wide receiver last season. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was cut by the Chiefs, while Corey Davis retired last summer in advance of what would likely have been his release by the Jets. (Allen Lazard was made a healthy scratch by the same team last November; he's back only because his contract is both guaranteed and underwater.) Others took massive pay cuts. Denver's Tim Patrick had his salary reduced to the minimum after missing back-to-back seasons with injuries. Odell Beckham Jr., coming off a one-year, $15 million pact with the Ravens, signed with the Dolphins for $3 million. And two years after being acquired for a first-round pick by the Cardinals, Marquise Brown hit the market after playing out his fifth-year option at $13.4 million and signed with the Chiefs for one year, $7 million.

Some of this is just the nature of the NFL: It's hard to stay on an expensive deal for very long, even if a player is talented enough to earn one. And the middle class of NFL veterans often struggles to land deals in line with their production. The only two wideouts who landed multiyear deals in this range during the 2024 offseason were Darnell Mooney and Gabe Davis, the latter of whom signed with the Jaguars, who kicked off this whole concern with the Kirk deal two years ago. (The Browns did trade for and extend Jerry Jeudy on a similar sort of deal.) The Jags were in the market to re-sign Ridley, who ended up inking a deal for $23 million per year with the Titans. Tennessee signed and kept a wideout on a midtier contract in Hopkins, who makes $13 million per season.

We're seeing this effect at wide receiver, though, more than any other position. Again, let's put these players into buckets by salary. The top bucket is for players who make north of $20 million per season, while the next bucket will be players making between $10 million and $20 million. There's a notable disparity between wideouts and players at other positions. Teams seem to place a premium on elite talent at the position and don't have the same appetite for secondary options.

Per the data at Spotrac, 20 wide receivers currently make more than $20 million per season, but only 13 are in that $10 million to $20 million range. The most comparable position in terms of pay around the league is edge rusher. There, 12 players make more than $20 million per season, but 26 are in the $10 million to $20 million range. At defensive tackle, there are 11 players making more than $20 million and 16 in the other bucket. Tackles and cornerbacks are even more heavily weighted toward the latter bucket, in part because their financial ceiling isn't as high.

More than the elite wideouts in the league, this middle class of wideouts gets squeezed by the talent coming out annually in the draft. It's tough for a team to draft a wideout and imagine it'll land Jefferson or Chase. Hoping to land a complementary player as a WR2 or a WR3, though? That's more plausible. And sometimes, as the Rams showed with Puka Nacua a year ago, franchises might even land a superstar for peanuts.

Are teams going to transition toward trying to land the wideouts they need in the draft?

To some extent, they already have. Over the past five years, by the Jimmy Johnson value chart, teams have used 15.3% of their available draft capital on wide receivers. That's the most for any five-year span since the league moved to the seven-round draft format in 1994. They've used more than 17% of their draft capital on wideouts four times over that 31-year span, and two of those occasions have come in the past four years (2022 and 2024).

One simple reason teams have devoted more resources to the position? The league needs more wide receivers because teams play more wide receivers.

ESPN's snap-by-snap data stretches back to 2007, the year Tom Brady and the Patriots moved to a spread attack and forever transformed the NFL. During 2007, the league as a whole used three or more wideouts on about 40% of offensive snaps. (In the five years preceding 2007, teams used less than 14% of their draft capital on wideouts.) Last season, teams had at least three wideouts on the field for 65% of their snaps. As you've probably noticed, the league has shifted to a point where the third wideout and the nickel defensive back are starters, while the fullback and third linebacker have become specialized roles.

This stretches down throughout all of football. ESPN's snap data at the college level goes back to 2011, when just under 42% of offensive snaps came with three or more wideouts on the field. Last season, that mark was over 71%. The size and scope of college football will always lead to wider schematic disparities (and innovation) relative to the pro game, but the most common approaches in the college game are also using more wideouts than what we saw 10 to 15 years ago.

It would be naive to imagine this isn't stretching to the high school level. We don't have historic data on high school formations and player usage, but that game also has changed. There are still wishbone and run-heavy approaches and those schemes will always have a place for the right teams, but the spread and run-pass option game have filtered down to high school football and back up to college and the NFL.

It's impossible to say with any level of certainty, but there's likely another effect coming into play at the lower levels that is both impacted by and impacting the NFL. How often are elite high school athletes who want to run with the football choosing to play wide receiver (or quarterback) as opposed to running back? If this same draft class of players entered the league 40 years ago, would rookie Giants wideout Malik Nabers be an elite running back prospect as opposed to a potential star wide receiver?

I tried doing some tests here to judge whether wide receiver is producing a higher percentage of elite talent now in relation to running backs, but there wasn't much of a difference over versus what we saw 20 years ago. It's still possible there hasn't been a shift, or that the shift hasn't yet hit the pros. Great high school players might not be thinking about their eventual second contract income as much as we believe. In the big picture, though, it's easier to imagine more would-be running backs are becoming wide receivers than vice versa.

What about the money element? Nacua's contract might be the league's biggest bargain outside of those of quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Brock Purdy, as he delivered elite performance at wide receiver while making $750,000 last season. Two years away from even being eligible for free agency, the 24-year-old will make about $1 million per year on his new deal without considering a performance-based pay bonus from the league. On the simplest level, that's about what Jefferson will make for every half of football he plays on his new contract.

Teams can't count on turning a fifth-round pick into a superstar, but what about more realistic bets? Marvin Harrison Jr., who might be the best wide receiver prospect of his generation, went to the Cardinals with the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft. He's going to make $35.3 million over the first four years of his rookie deal, or roughly what Jefferson will make over one season of his new deal. If Harrison turns into a league-average receiver, that'll be a massive bargain.

It's fair to argue Jefferson already has proved himself to be an elite NFL wide receiver, while Harrison hasn't yet played a pro snap. It's also too simplistic. The idea that even a great receiver can be considered a sure thing ignores history. The Saints signed Thomas to a five-year extension before the 2019 season, and after he won Offensive Player of the Year that campaign, an ankle injury destroyed his career. Beckham posted three consecutive 1,300-yard seasons to begin his career, earned a massive extension with the Giants, suffered ankle and knee injuries and never hit those marks again. After leading the league in receiving yards in 2018, Julio Jones inked a four-year deal with the Falcons. Jones declined precipitously over the ensuing two season, and before the extension even kicked in, he was traded to the Titans, who cut him after one season. I don't fault those teams for those extensions, but treating even a great young receiver as a guarantee simply isn't accurate.

As for the comparison, it's not Jefferson vs. Harrison. It's Jefferson vs. Harrison and the other $26 million the team gets to spend elsewhere on its roster. A team still might prefer Jefferson, but treating the comparison as the proven player vs. an unproven player ignores the financial element of a rookie deal and how valuable that can be if a franchise lands an eventual starter on a sub-market pact.

The Harrison-Jefferson comparison is just a hypothetical. Teams won't pass on their elite players to try to draft replacements, nor should they. In reality, it's the middle class of veterans more likely to be wounded by the draft. A wide receiver drafted in the third round will make an average of approximately $1.5 million per season. From 1999 through 2019, about 23% of wide receivers drafted in the third round became regular starters for teams (starting the majority of their team's games at least twice during their first five seasons). Even with that sort of success rate, given how often those veterans on midtier deals fail to live up to expectations or battle injuries, it's tough to make the argument the older player on the much larger salary makes sense. And if a team lands on someone like Chris Godwin or Nico Collins on a rookie deal, it has landed an offense-transforming bargain.

The other factor that matters is the meta that has existed throughout the NFL since the league moved to the slotted draft system in 2011: The easiest way to rebuild a roster is to draft a quarterback and surround him with expensive veteran talent.

Owners vary in terms of how hands-on they get with a roster, but the one thing they all have in common is wanting a franchise quarterback on their roster, since it's the one thing everybody knows directly leads to winning football games. Asking for $30 million to pay an elite wide receiver who makes your quarterback's life easier with highlight-reel catches is always going to be an easier sell to an owner than seeking $30 million to spend across several spots to add a guard, cornerback and off-ball linebacker. That will help propel the wide receiver market forward.

Will wide receiver become the next running back in terms of the market?

No. I've seen this discussed in a bunch of places, but suggesting that wide receivers will end up like running backs because they both touch the football feels like it might be a misunderstanding of why the running back market cratered. I've written about what happened in a few articles, but there were a variety of factors that came into play and led to the stagnant market for running backs. Most don't apply to wide receivers:

The league shifted heavily toward the pass. Running backs meant more in a universe where teams ran the ball 40 times a game and lead rushers could expect to see 300 carries in a season. There will always be a balance between running and passing too often -- and I wouldn't be shocked if some teams did choose to run at a higher rate at some point in the years to come -- but passing is always going to be a more efficient choice than running the football.

It would take something truly out of the box, like a wildly successful triple-option team changing the league, to get offenses running the way they did in the 1970s and '80s.

The quarterback run game took carries away from backs. Quarterbacks can't catch the football. Well, they can on tipped passes, but it's not going to happen often.

Teams moved away from 30 carry-a-game backs to using committees to avoid overworking their stars. We don't see the same impact of huge workloads steadily leading to slowdowns or immediate injuries for wide receivers. Offenses seem comfortable targeting elite wide receivers as often as humanly possible.

Teams saw success over decades of play when they replaced highly paid veteran backs with lesser-known replacements on less expensive contracts, while many star backs struggled after moving to lesser offenses. This dates back most notably to the Mike Shanahan offense in Denver in the 1990s, when Terrell Davis became a Hall of Famer after being selected in the sixth round. He was then replaced by a series of relatively unknown and/or undrafted backs, and while he was still an outlier in terms of performance, Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns had big seasons. Shanahan then coaxed a few big years out of Alfred Morris in Washington, while his son Kyle later had undrafted back Arian Foster turn into an elite player in Houston.

Could a team look at, say, the Chiefs and conclude it can afford to scrimp and save at wide receiver if it has an elite quarterback and a great offensive line? Maybe. In terms of the evidence, though, consider how much time passed between the Broncos succeeding in the Shanahan/Alex Gibbs era and the league eventually reining in its spending on running backs. The next big investment the Broncos made at running back after Davis was on Clinton Portis. They traded him to Washington in 2004 for future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey and even netted an extra draft pick in the process. Eleven backs came off the board in the top five of the draft between 1998 and 2008; just four have been taken in the top five since.

It took decades -- and success swapping out backs in many places across the league -- for teams to realize they were overvaluing running backs at the expense of other positions. (The Patriots generally being comfortable rotating between backs, finding useful rushers on the cheap and making only rare investments at the position over the Brady-Bill Belichick era went a long way, too.) If the Chiefs continue to save money at wide receiver throughout the Patrick Mahomes era and other Super Bowl winners follow in kind, that could lead to more of a debate about wide receivers being overvalued. We're not close to that point yet.

As a result, teams reassigned the money that had been ticketed toward backs and spent it more often on offensive linemen. As running back spending has stagnated and declined over the past 10 years, spending on right tackles and guards has skyrocketed faster than at any other position. Given their ability to create holes in the running games and protect the quarterback in the passing game, teams have placed more emphasis on valuing line play than at any other point during the salary cap era.

Is there really a place money would flow if it wasn't to be used on wide receivers? It could go to quarterbacks, of course, although their deals are also rising at a much faster rate than that of cap inflation. Tight end is undervalued, and if teams moved toward more two- and three-tight end groupings, we could see some of the money ticketed to wide receivers flow toward tight ends instead. Tackles could become even more valuable if teams see line play as more meaningful than playmakers. More realistically, there isn't that easy substitute for investing in wideouts like there seems to be for running backs.

Which position will be next to take the leap?

There isn't another one ready to produce a $35 million-a-year player, beyond edge rusher, where Parsons should become the highest-paid player who doesn't take snaps when he inks his extension with the Cowboys. That deal might need to wait until 2025, as both Prescott and Lamb are in the final years of their respective contracts this year. If it does, given the expected rise in the salary cap, Parsons will likely become the first defensive player to make $40 million per year on his new pact.

A more realistic question might be to ask which position could be in line to make a major financial leap in the next offseason or two. The easy answer is cornerback, where the market has stagnated since Jaire Alexander signed a five-year deal worth $21 million per season in May 2022. Adjusting for the cap rise, a similarly sized deal in 2024 would be worth more than $26 million annually.

There was a bit of a lull in the cornerback market in terms of top-end talent, but the league's best young cornerbacks are coming eligible for extensions. This year, it's Broncos star Pat Surtain II, who might be one of the few bright spots in Denver. Next offseason, a pair of top-five picks will come up for new contracts in Sauce Gardner (Jets) and Derek Stingley (Texans). A.J. Terrell (Falcons) and Trent McDuffie (Chiefs) should also be in position for significant extensions.

I would expect Surtain to push the market forward and Gardner's subsequent extension to top it. They won't get to Jefferson's level, but the top of the cornerback market should be approaching or hitting $30 million per season by the time Gardner gets his deal.

Will the Vikings regret the Jefferson deal?

While we can't say for sure, teams typically don't regret paying elite players entering the prime of their careers, even if it's with a record-setting contract. The Cardinals and Lions don't regret their extensions with Fitzgerald and Johnson, respectively. The contracts along the defensive line for elite pass-rushers haven't turned out poorly, although Bosa is only one year into his and Donald retired after two seasons on his most recent pact with the Rams. Contracts at this level are usually for the sort of players who never hit free agency.

Outside of his hamstring injury from a year ago, there's little reason to believe that Jefferson is a bad bet. The Vikings signed him a few weeks before he turns 25, which is firmly entering the prime years for the vast majority of wideouts. His deal likely ties Minnesota to him until the spring of 2028, when there will be one year left on his extension. He will be turning 29 and either about to sign a new extension or on his way out of town at that point. There's nothing in his production profile or history suggesting he's likely to create issues for the Vikings. No deal is foolproof -- as I mentioned in talking about what happened with the Beckham and Thomas extensions -- but Minnesota shouldn't have many reasons to regret this deal barring a serious injury.

In the big picture, I would argue there's actually something like a first-mover advantage for teams that propel the market forward for a player who's truly elite at his position. By resetting the market for top wide receivers at $35 million per year, the Vikings are now forcing every other team with a wide receiver it values to work off their deal.

Take Lamb. While his production has been spectacular in a pass-happy offense alongside Prescott over the past couple of seasons, Jefferson is a more explosive and consistently impactful receiver. Now that Jefferson has reset the market, though, the Cowboys will probably need to pay Lamb even more than his Vikings counterpart to get his deal done.

The same will be true for Chase and, down the line, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Nacua. Having Jefferson signed for $35 million per year becomes a better deal when Lamb gets $36 million, Chase gets $37 million and Wilson picks up $40 million per season.