Advertisement

These are Justin Jefferson’s Vikings now

The Vikings spent the first few years of Kirk Cousins' tenure trying to shoehorn him into a leadership position, even though there was clear tension between the quarterback and coach Mike Zimmer.

Cousins has natural leadership instincts and plays the natural position of a football leader. He clearly grew more comfortable in 2022 when former QB Kevin O'Connell became the coach and established a much better relationship between the two key roles.

Along the way, starting in 2020, wide receiver Justin Jefferson was both at the forefront but also the background. His first four seasons put him on a Hall of Fame trajectory and established Jefferson as the best receiver in the NFL.

But he also had a veteran throwing him the ball and could primarily focus on football instead of other things like locker room dynamics that are required of leaders.

That's what makes 2024 so different and fascinating for Jefferson, as Andrew Krammer and I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.

The Vikings' three signature offseason events all combined to thrust Jefferson into the spotlight as not just a star receiver but a leader of this team.

First, they let Cousins leave via free agency. It obviously wasn't all the Vikings' choice, but the logical way to view Cousins' departure to Atlanta is that if Minnesota had wanted to keep him it could have stepped up with an offer to do so. Instead, the Vikings did not.

Second, and in tandem with that Cousins decision, the Vikings drafted J.J. McCarthy to be their quarterback of the future. Sam Darnold was signed to essentially be a placeholder. Neither player's voice will carry nearly as much weight as Cousins' voice would have, leaving a leadership void.

And third, Jefferson signed a massive contract extension earlier this week. At four years and $140 million, it makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

Jefferson figures to be the highest-paid player on the Vikings for several years as the team likely shifts to McCarthy and five years of cost control at some point this season or surely by next year.

Jefferson is the best player on the Vikings (by far) and their one true superstar. Now he has the leadership role to go with it.

There's no question: This is Justin Jefferson's team now.

Here are four more things to know today:

*Also on Friday's podcast, I started with a look at how (and why) the Twins are 0-14 against the three best teams in the American League this season. To me, it starts with starting pitching. The Twins were No. 2 in the majors in starter ERA last season. They are No. 25 so far this year.

*Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the United States, is on board to help Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore try to finish their purchase of the Timberwolves. This seems like something they should have done a few months ago instead of now.

*As it turns out, the Mavericks are not invincible. Boston routed Dallas in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday after Dallas cruised past the Wolves in five games.

*On a personal note, today marks the 25-year anniversary of my official start date at the Star Tribune. Time flies, and yet it doesn't. I remember it like it was both yesterday and a quarter-century ago. Thanks to everyone who has read what I have written and listened to what I have talked about over the (many) years.