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Training camp has begun in Minnesota on Sunday with the arrival of a select group of rookies and veterans. They now have less than three weeks to prepare for the first preseason game in Seattle on August 10. The first regular season contest is scheduled for exactly one month later, on 10 September.
Decisions on 3 franchise cornerstones inching closer for Vikings
But the training camp is not the only important thing on the agenda. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have to make some important decisions regarding the future of the organization over the next few weeks, and the three stars will come into focus.
Justin Jefferson is the main priority in the state of Minnesota. The superstar wideout is already eligible to sign a contract extension in the offseason. Adofo-Mensah apparently opted out of his fifth year to ensure his tenure with the Vikings will last at least until the end of the 2024 season. In order to further guarantee his employment, he must find a way to agree to a new contract, which must also be without a second thought.
Jefferson is likely looking to sign an extension that would make him the highest-paid wide receiver. After leading the league in both receptions and receiving yards, winning the Offensive Player of the Year trophy, and having the best career start of any NFL player ever, he certainly deserves it.
Tyreek Hill tops the list with an average annual salary of $30 million, followed by Davante Adams with $28.5 million. Of course, Jefferson is too young. He is the face of the franchise and one of the best marketable players in the league. An expansion would give the Vikings organization a nice spark for their 2023 campaign.
Tight end TJ Hockenson is a year ahead of Jefferson’s deadline. He is currently set to play out under his fifth year option and will enter free agency next year without an extension. Since his trade, he has been a stellar player for the Vikings, certainly earning a new deal.
The player makes around $15 million per season depending on his position and talent, and the deal shouldn’t be too easy if the Vikings see him as a stable player for the franchise. The former eighth-overall pick quickly became Cousins’ second favorite target upon his arrival, and he could be in line for a big year after spending his first offseason with the Vikings and getting fully comfortable with the playbook.
And the last person on the list is Danielle Hunter. His position is hugely impactful for the 2023 season as it is clearly easier to do a defensive overhaul with the best defender on the roster actually playing for the team.
He wants a new deal, as his salary in 2023 is only $5.5 million – a ridiculous number for a forward coming off a Pro Bowl season. The Vikings need a strong pass rush to compensate for a shaky coverage unit. While the team signed Marcus Davenport in free agency, backups DJ Wonum and Patrick Jones would be a serious downgrade from the three-time Pro Bowler.
Pittsburgh Steelers defender Alex Highsmith recently signed for an average annual salary of $17 million, and Hunter is a far more accomplished player. $20 million per season would rank Hunter seventh among edge rushers, and he likely wants even more.
Jefferson and Hockenson are investments for the future, while Hunter’s position is imperative. If the Vikings can’t agree on a deal and send him to another team, they will definitely miss him and their roster will be significantly depleted. However, each player has a price, and if his asking price is too high, divorce is the logical consequence.
All three situations should be resolved over the next few weeks with the players in the building, but the decisions are important for the future of the organization. It’s Adofo-Mensah’s job to keep the talent on the board but not make irresponsible deals to limit future assignments within the NFL’s salary range.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team at the time, despite quarterback Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms and classic rock is his musical genre of choice. If you like Vikings, follow them on Twitter: @JanikEckardt