Skip to main content

Powered by On3

Justin Jefferson evaluates Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy in wake of Kirk Cousins departure

profilephotocropby:Suzanne Halliburton07/10/24


vikings sam-darnold justin jefferson j.j. mccarthy
USA Today Network

The Vikings respected Justin Jefferson so much they made the receiver the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. Now, about that quarterback.

As training camp starts later this month, Jefferson must be pleased with his new four-year extension worth $180 million. It’s not impressive money for a quarterback. But for any other position in the NFL, the contract was a big deal. Count the zeros!

But at the same time, the Vikings aren’t sure about who will be throwing passes to their highest-paid player. After all, quarterback Kirk Cousins unexpectedly signed with the Falcons back in March. He’s now telling his Dad jokes and quoting movie lines to a new group of players.

Jefferson told Rich Eisen this week that Cousin’s move surprised in some ways, but made sense in others. Namely, if they paid Jefferson what he wanted, the Vikings probably couldn’t also afford to give Cousins an even larger salary.

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

“I’m not mad at him at all for that,” the Vikings receiver said. “I’m grateful for what he has brought to me, and the things that we have accomplished together, but at the end of the day it’s a business. You have to do what you have to do for yourself and your family. I clearly understand that. It’s on to the next.”

justin jefferson kirk cousins vikings
Justin Jefferson (18) and Kirk Cousins (8) were quite the offensive duo when both played for the Vikings. Cousins left for the Falcons back in March. (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Now, who will be the next quarterback for the Vikings? And can the eventual starter establish a similar connection that Cousins shared with Jefferson? The receiver averaged 98.3 receiving yards per game in his first four seasons in the NFL. His career yardage of 5,899 also is the most in league history for a receiver’s first four seasons.

In free agency, Minnesota signed Sam Darnold, whose last team was the 49ers. Darnold backed up Brock Purdy last season and is a one-time No. 3 pick of the NFL Draft. (That was back in 2018, when the Jets selected him out of USC). Then in April, the Vikings traded with the Jets to secure the 10th pick of the 2024 draft and select Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy. The former Wolverine was the fifth of six quarterbacks selected amongst the top 12 picks.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has told reporters that Darnold has the edge headed into training camp. After all, Darnold has six seasons of experience. McCartht doesn’t even have an exhibition game.

Jefferson will catch passes no matter who throws the ball.

“It doesn’t really matter what quarterback it is in my eyes,” Jefferson told Eisen. “I’m always going to make the best of the opportunity. Always going to try to be the quarterback’s friend and make his job a lot easier. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kirk or if it’s Sam or it’s J.J. I’m going to make it as easy as possible for them.”