Justin Jefferson Contract Projection: How Vikings WR’s Deal Could Impact Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins

Whenever Vikings WR Justin Jefferson's new contract lands, it will ripple through the negotiations for Bengals WRs Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is set to make $19.7 million in 2024 on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, but the three-time All-Pro wants more.

And the Vikings are on the record saying he deserves more.

The question is, “How much more?”

And Jefferson isn’t the only wide receiver eagerly awaiting the answer.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who both are eligible for extensions, are watching closely, knowing the landing of the Jefferson contact will ripple through their own negotiations.

Setting Minimum Bar for Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson’s Contract

Minnesota has said it has no intention of trading Jefferson, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah essentially set the baseline for Jefferson’s next contract at the NFL Combine in February.

“We’ve said it, and we’ll continue to say it — we think he’s the best wide receiver in the league and should be compensated as such,” Adofo-Mensah said “We think he’s one of the best non-quarterbacks in the league, (and) he should be compensated as such.”

A.J. Brown reset the receiver market last month when he signed a three-year, $96 million extension that included $84 million in guaranteed money.

The $32 million per year leads all receivers, surpassing Amon-Ra St. Brown, who signed a week before Jefferson. St. Brown and Tyreek Hill each have an average annual salary of $30 million.

MORE: Who Are the Highest-Paid Wide Receivers in the NFL in 2024?

In terms of guaranteed money, Brown’s $84 million tops St. Brown ($77 million), with Cooper Kupp ($75 million) and Hill ($72.2 million) close behind.

But Adofo-Mensah’s “best non-quarterbacks in the league” declaration bumps the threshold.

San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, who signed a five-year, $170 million extension in September, is the highest-paid non-quarterback with an average annual salary of $34 million and $88 million guaranteed.

So don’t expect Jefferson, who has the most receiving yards in the first four years of a career in NFL history, to sign for anything less than $35 million per year.

The bigger question is what kind of structure the two sides agree to, whether it be a shorter deal of around three years that will give Jefferson another crack at a huge contract before he turns 29 or a longer deal.

And if it’s a longer contract, will it be front-loaded, which would be more team-friendly as Jefferson nears the age of 30? Or will it be backloaded, which would increase the chances of the Vikings moving on from Jefferson a year or two before the contract ends?

Either way, Chase and Higgins will be watching.

Chase will make $4.8 million guaranteed this season in the fourth year, and that number will rocket to at least a guaranteed $21.8 million next year as the Bengals already have exercised the fifth-year option.

The No. 5 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Chase said in January he’s in no hurry to get a deal done because he’s content to let Jefferson set a bar that he expects to clear. He could be the first non-quarterback in NFL history to average $40 million per year.

Asked if Jefferson needs to sign first before he will sign, Chase responded, “Hell yeah.”

Chase also offered an idea of what he will be looking for from the front office in terms of the structure of the contract: “Probably just upfront (guaranteed money), for real.”

Among receivers with at least 20 games played, Jefferson ranks first in NFL history with an average of 98.3 receiving yards per game.

Chase (82.6) is fourth behind Calvin Johnson (86.1) and Antonio Brown (82.6).

Jefferson is tied with Keenan Allen for second in NFL history with 6.5 catches per game, trailing only Michael Thomas (6.8).

Chase (6.0) is tied for seventh.

The debate of whether Jefferson or Chase is better can — and will — rage on for years. But regardless of outside opinions, Chase should be expected to top Jefferson, regardless of where the Minnesota receiver’s deal lands. That’s just the leap-frogging nature of NFL contracts.

What Jefferson’s deal will mean for Higgins is less clear financially. But practically, it’s going to be a windfall regardless.

Higgins doesn’t have the numbers to be considered among the best receivers in the league, but he’s going to be among the best available next offseason, and there will be no shortage of teams interested in his services if the Bengals don’t re-sign him. The odds of that are somewhere in the “getting struck by lightning twice” range.

The amount of guaranteed money will be as important for Higgins as the average annual salary. Where exactly those numbers land remains to be seen, but the expectations will receive a significant boost as soon as Jefferson signs.

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