INDIANAPOLIS — Justin Jefferson led the NFL in receiving yards and receptions in 2022 while averaging 106.4 yards per game.
Following his All-Pro wideout’s 1,809-yard, 128-catch, eight-touchdown campaign, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell believes Jefferson can soar even higher.
“As crazy as this sounds, leading the league in yards and receptions, I think he and I have just scratched the surface of where we want to go as an offense, particularly with him as our premier receiver,” O’Connell said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year winner, Jefferson dominated opponents, generating 10 games over the 100-yard mark in O’Connell’s first season in Minnesota.
“One of my favorite players I’ve ever coached, I’ve told him that,” O’Connell said of Jefferson. “Unbelievable talent. What he means to our league, how he carries himself, how he works every day. What I was really impressed with Justin this year was the leadership, the next step. He believes he’s the best receiver in football — I happen to agree with him — and a lot goes with that. Not only schematically, how people play against you, but the responsibility he has as a role model. He takes it very seriously how much people and young kids look up to him. I just watch the way he carries himself every single day and week. To say I’m excited about coaching Justin for a really long time is an understatement.”
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For O’Connell to coach Jefferson for a “really long time,” the star receiver will need a contract extension.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah noted Tuesday that inking the wideout to a new contract is a “high priority.”
“I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team, so it’s a priority,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We have to make sure we do it in an order that we can do it in given all the other decisions we have to make.”
Set to earn just $2.399 million in 2023, with a potential fifth-year team option in 2024, Jefferson is due a massive pay increase in line with his value. Jefferson’s 4,825 career yards are the most in NFL history for a receiver in the first three years of a career.
“Justin just had an incredible year, but what I liked about it the most was just the impactful plays at critical moments he made for our team, among a lot of our players,” O’Connell said. “Very thankful for him in Year 1 and really looking forward to seeing him growing both as a leader and continued dominance at the receiver position.”
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