National Football League
Vikings keeping Justin Jefferson in loop on QB plans
National Football League

Vikings keeping Justin Jefferson in loop on QB plans

Updated Mar. 25, 2024 8:26 p.m. ET

After losing longtime QB Kirk Cousins via free agency, the Minnesota Vikings have major shoes to fill at QB.

Cousins took snaps as the team's starter for six seasons, making Pro Bowls in three of them and leading the Vikings to the postseason twice. Cousins' consistency in Minnesota netted him a huge payday in Atlanta and left the Vikes with a trio of unproven signal-callers.

But the team's best player, star receiver Justin Jefferson, is reportedly "excited" about the opportunity to mentor a greenhorn starter, and the Vikings' QB conundrum has not dissuaded him from potentially signing a long-term deal. (Jefferson is entering the final year of his four-year contract.)

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"Needing to know and being a part of a collaborative process, which Justin is, are two different things," Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell said. "I've felt very strongly about keeping him informed. He's been in the loop. He's been aware. He's allowed to articulate things to me via our relationship, and that's really been through this whole process."

Jefferson was a proponent of keeping Cousins around, but he didn't go as far as demanding it from the team brass.

"Look, the things that Kirk and Justin were able to do over these last couple years, that's what I can speak to," O'Connell said. "Having been here with those guys when they've played together, they've done a lot of really special things and that's not lost on me and that's not lost on Justin. But Justin ... did step into a leadership role last year. He became a first-time captain. I think he's excited about that, what that means for him moving forward, really being a pillar of leadership in our organization and that's how I treat him.

"That's how our conversations and our communication go, and I think the quarterback position, the path that we're going to go, I think he's excited about getting to spend some time and work with Sam [Darnold] in addition to our other quarterbacks and then what this could look like to maybe be a part of helping mentor a young quarterback. I think it's a pretty special time and I know Justin's looking at it like that as well, and my hope is we get his contract done and taken care of, and he continues to be that pillar, that pillar of leadership that I look at him as within our team."

The Vikings signed Darnold, who's entering his seventh season with a 21-35 record as a starter, to a one-year $10 million deal in the offseason. With that kind of money, it's likely he'll begin the season as QB1, but Minnesota could also have plans to draft a QB in April.

The team acquired the No. 23 overall pick from Houston to give it two first-round selections (it also has the 11th pick). General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said "there's a preferred scenario" regarding its first-round selections, but that's contingent on another team's willingness to play ball.

"There's a lot that goes into that," O'Connell said. "We need another team to be complicit in that action to go get one of those guys, if that ends up being the plan. But I am excited to kind of see this process through and see if we can potentially add our quarterback in the future to that room."

Whatever the Vikings decide, O'Connell's been clear that Jefferson will be a part of it.

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Justin Jefferson

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