National Football League
Justin Jefferson says he's 'not mad' at Kirk Cousins for leaving Vikings for Falcons
National Football League

Justin Jefferson says he's 'not mad' at Kirk Cousins for leaving Vikings for Falcons

Updated Jul. 9, 2024 10:54 p.m. ET

For the first time in his NFL career, Justin Jefferson's starting quarterback will not be Kirk Cousins.

Cousins, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who helped Jefferson become one of NFL's best wide receivers during their four years together with the Minnesota Vikings, left to sign a four-year contract worth up to $180 million with the Atlanta Falcons when NFL free agency opened in march.

Jefferson said he understood Cousins' decision in a radio interview Tuesday.

"Yeah and no," Jefferson said when asked whether he was surprised that Cousins headed to Atlanta in the offseason.


"I always knew Kirk was going to do whatever he needs to do for his business-wise. I just knew that everything wasn't the way that he wanted it to be here. Especially with having to pay me, and having to pay so many other different guys. I feel like he just wanted a new start, and a new opportunity to start with Atlanta, and a clean slate."

Jefferson stressed that he was not mad "at all" at Cousins for the decision he made.

"I'm grateful for what he has brought to me and the things that we have accomplished together," Jefferson continued. "But at the end of the day it's a business, and you've gotta do what you gotta do for yourself and your family, and I clearly understand that."

"The next" for Jefferson and the Vikings is either veteran free agent signing Sam Darnold, or J.J. McCarthy, who became the No. 10 overall selection in April's 2024 NFL draft for Minnesota after having won a aational championship with Michigan last college football season. Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell has indicated that Darnold will have a slight edge over McCarthy in the near term given his six years of NFL experience, and Jefferson said he has enjoyed his time with Darnold thus far.

"I feel like Sam is doing a great job with just communicating and just connecting with the players," he said. "He understands that he's the new guy. We have to bond with him, and we have to create that connection and that chemistry with him. And he's an older guy. It's not like he's new into the league, so he kind of knows how to socialize, how to talk, how to communicate with us. 

"Not only just about football, but just in general. Just talking about different things, just like how me and Kirk used to do. But to have Sam in there, more of a veteran, older mindset, to have J.J. come in and learn from him as well, it's definitely something that we needed, and I think will be great for J.J. as well."

But Jefferson is already a fan of McCarthy as well, knowing that the the 21-year-old rookie is likely Minnesota's — and, by extension, Jefferson's — quarterback of the future. 

"I like J.J.," Jefferson said. "He's definitely learning, he's definitely trying to learn. Asking questions. They put JJ's locker right next to mine, just like how they did Kirk. So I already know their mindset and how they want things to go. They want me to be that guy that J.J. can always talk to and ask questions about. He's definitely that type of kid. He definitely wants to ask questions. He wants to learn how to become a top quarterback. He wants to learn how to become a problem in this league."

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"I love his attitude. I love his questioning and his curiosity to want to become something. So I'm definitely looking forward to what he has to bring to our team. Of course, there's a lot of expectations from him. But I always tell him, don't really worry about the expectations. All you have to do is just carry yourself with confidence."

Whether it's Darnold or McCarthy who ends up with starting duties makes no difference to Jefferson. He's confident in his game-changing ability regardless, an ability rewarded with the four-year, $140 million contract extension including $110 million guaranteed that he signed with the Vikings last month.

"It doesn't really matter what quarterback it is in my eyes," Jefferson said. "I'm always gonna try to make the best of the opportunity. I'm always gonna try to be the quarterback's friend, and make his job a lot easier."

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National Football League
Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings

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