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Justin Jefferson is the ‘heart and soul’ of the Vikings. That’s why they never considered trading him during their pursuit to extend him.

Not long after general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired by the Vikings in 2022, he met star receiver Justin Jefferson for the first time while walking the hallways of TCO Performance Center. They chopped it up for a while and eventually a messy contract negotiation going on elsewhere in the NFL came up in casual conversation.

Innocently, Adofo-Mensah joked with Jefferson, assuring him that their contract negotiations, whenever it went down, would only take a few seconds to complete.

“The confidence of a first month GM,” Adofo-Mensah said with a laugh on Tuesday morning, roughly 24 hours after Jefferson agreed to a historic four-year, $140 million extension. “I’ve learned a lot since then.”

No less than 10 feet away sat Jefferson, the face of the franchise, the man of the hour. He laughed at the punchline while seated alongside his parents John and Elaine and his oldest brother Jordan. Though the contract negotiations took much longer than a few seconds, everybody involved was thrilled with the outcome.

“We knew that the deal was going to get done eventually,” Jefferson said. “It was just all the matter of when it did.”

It was a similar tone from Adofo-Mensah, who had to bite his tongue over the past few months as trade rumors swirled, which was especially frustrating because he knew there wasn’t a shred of truth to any of it. He made his intentions clear from the jump, and he remained focused on finding a solution.

Not once did the Vikings waver in their pursuit to extend their best player.

“This day was going to come,” Adofo-Mensah said. “There was never a second in my mind that (I thought) we weren’t going to be here.”

Maybe the biggest reason a deal got done in a timely fashion is because of the mutual respect both sides displayed throughout the contract negotiations. They agreed in the early stages to keep everything behind closed doors, rather than try to gain leverage through leaks spread on social media.

That’s why any trade rumor involving Jefferson made no sense to those making the actual decisions. Asked about some of those reports on Tuesday afternoon, head coach Kevin O’Connell not surprisingly shot them down. He emphasized the Vikings “unequivocally” never considered trading him at any point.

“Some people have sources far and wide,” O’Connell said. “I would say amongst the leadership, amongst the decision makers, amongst the people that are directly involved in the situation, not once was that ever discussed.”

Truthfully, if the Vikings didn’t try to get something done with Jefferson last offseason, there’s a good chance this never would’ve been an issue. They tried to think outside of the box and get the extension done a full year ahead of schedule. Those talks eventually broke down, and both sides agreed to table contract negotiations until this offseason.

“It’s hard because everybody looks at that as some failure,” Adofo-Mensah said. “I don’t. I don’t look at this as some process that took too long. I look at it as a couple months of a process that stopped, then restarted, and actually got done a lot quicker than most deals get done.”

The agreement got done roughly 24 hours before the Vikings were set to report to mandatory minicamp in Eagan. Fortunately for the Vikings, that meant Jefferson was in attendance, catching passes from veteran quarterback Sam Darnold and rookie QB J.J. McCarthy for the first time.

His presence was palpable as it always is.

“The heart and soul of our team on a daily basis,” O’Connell said. “He fits everything that we want to be about and continue to build in this building.”

Now that the contract negotiations are complete, Jefferson can focus on playing football, which has remained the most important thing to him throughout the process.

“The contract comes with the game,” Jefferson said. “I’m just excited to finally be done with it.”

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