Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings


Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings


Getty

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings‘ decision to give Justin Jefferson a mega contract may interfere with the team’s ability to keep left tackle Christian Darrisaw around.

Yardbarker managing editor David Latham proposed that the Vikings may have no choice but to trade Darrisaw given the massive cap hits ahead in Jefferson’s contract.

“Had the team retained Kirk Cousins, the Vikings would probably have no choice but to trade Christian Darrisaw. Justin Jefferson will break the bank, and there is only so much money to go around. However, with rookie J.J. McCarthy and his cost-controlled contract, Minnesota should be able to afford both of their first-round picks,” Latham wrote June 2, before Jefferson signed his extension.

“With that disclaimer out of the way, the Vikings might still trade Christian Darrisaw. Elite left tackles are getting upwards of $20 million per year, and Darrisaw should join those ranks with his next deal. Seeing as Justin Jefferson will likely eclipse A.J. Brown’s $32 million per year deal, the Vikings will need to ask themselves if they can justify spending roughly $55 million per year on two non-quarterbacks.”

The Vikings exercised Darrisaw’s fifth-year option this spring, keeping him under contract through the 2025 season. However, that year his cap hit will jump from $4.2 million to $16 million.

Latham’s projection is also modest considering fellow 2021 draftee Penei Sewell just reset the left tackle market with a new contract worth $28 million a year — a bar the Vikings may have to clear in the future.

While the salary cap is expected to continue rising, the Vikings have T.J. Hockenson and left tackle Brian O’Neill on expensive contracts through the 2026 season.

There’s likely a tough decision down the road for the franchise, although it may not be Darrisaw.


New Vikings Regime Sees Darrisaw as a Franchise Building Block

Christian Darrisaw, Minnesota Vikings

GettyChristian Darrisaw #71 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The new Vikings regime has not been misleading when it comes to roster decisions.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said he would never want to be the general manager of the team that let Jefferson get away, and he put truth to those words by signing the superstar wide receiver to a historic four-year, $140 million extension.

Darrisaw is likely on his way to a historic deal as well.

When Kevin O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah arrived in Minnesota in 2022, Darrisaw was one of the players they immediately built up, comparing him to future Hall of Famer and mentor Trent Williams during training camp.

Darrisaw lived up to that billing, finishing with the second-highest blocking grade (90.4) by Pro Football Focus — behind only Williams himself.

Last season, Darrisaw played a career-high 15 games as the first two years of his career were stunted due to injury. While he has yet to earn a Pro Bowl nod, he’s one all-star game away from earning a reputation as a perennial Pro Bowl tackle and garnering a contract that respects his status at the top of his position.

“Darrisaw is every bit the building block that Jefferson is, despite the imbalance in public discussion between the two,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote on May 29. “Where Darrisaw stands in the NFL hierarchy of left tackles is debatable, but what’s indisputable is that the Vikings view him as a player who can hold down his position into the next decade. There have been initial talks between the sides, as would be expected, but there is no indication that a deal — which would be two years early, something that happens in relatively rare occasions — is imminent.”


Vikings Have Delicate Timeline Ahead With J.J. McCarthy, Jefferson & Darrisaw

J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

GettyJ.J. McCarthy #9 of the Minnesota Vikings.

This season, the Vikings opted to eat the third-most dead cap in the league ($57.4 million) to part ways with Danielle Hunter and Cousins.

They’ve set themselves up for financial flexibility and the ability to secure young talent long-term after years of trying to make another run with Spielman-Zimmer regime veterans.

McCarthy is at the epicenter of how the Vikings’ timeline will pan out with their contract.

If McCarthy shines early, it would be in the Vikings’ best interest to extend him immediately when he becomes eligible in 2026 to get ahead of a surging quarterback market.

Joe Burrow‘s record-breaking extension saw him secure a $55 million-a-year deal, which is $10 million more annually than what Kyler Murray got when he was extended a year earlier.

An early McCarthy extension would complicate the Darrisaw decision while also working around Jefferson’s contract, however, the Vikings have the runway to keep the star trio together and still have cap space to be a true contender, however, that can only last for a few years before business decisions must be made.

Trevor Squire is a sports journalist covering the NFL and NBA for Heavy.com, with a focus on the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks. Trevor studied journalism at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities, making stops at the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can reach him at trevor.squire@heavy.com and follow him on Twitter @trevordsquire. More about Trevor Squire



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