Minnesota Vikings Give Justin Jefferson Record Contract, Forecast Offensive Player of the Year Best Bets

In the NFL, nothing speaks louder than money. There has been a spending spree on wide receivers, with the Minnesota Vikings the most recent team to open up the checkbook. On Monday, they made 24-year-old Justin Jefferson the highest- paid non-quarterback in NFL history. At four years and $140 million, Jefferson is making $35 million per season.

For perspective, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is making $37.5 million from the New York Jets.

On April 24, the Detroit Lions extended Amon-Ra St. Brown to the tune of $30.002 million annually. The very next day, the Philadelphia Eagles extended A.J. Brown at $32 million Average Annual Value (AAV). Just two weeks earlier, they extended DeVonta Smith with $25 million AAV.

In May, the Miami Dolphins gave Jaylen Waddle $28.5 million AAV, and the word out of Miami is that the league’s first $30 million wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, now wants a new deal to keep up with all of the new money being spent.

The Houston Texans also gave Nico Collins a big raise last month, and he is now making $24.25 million per season.

The NFL clearly values wide receivers at a different level than any other non-quarterback position, and when looking ahead to the candidates to win Offensive Player of the Year, that spending should inform our wagers.

Tyreek Hill (+650)

Hill has never won the award, but he had a good claim on it last year. He led the NFL with 1,799 receiving yards, and his 13 receiving touchdowns was also tops in the league. He passed the 10,000-yard career mark in 2023, and in this Dolphins offense, he has a legitimate chance to become the NFL’s first 2,000-yard receiver.

If he can get to 2,000 yards, he will win Offensive Player of the Year.

Christian McCaffrey (+700)

Leave it to a San Francisco 49ers running back to break the monopoly by the league’s best wide receivers. Playing in the Kyle Shanahan play-action, zone blocking offense turned Christian McCaffrey into the Offensive Player of the Year last season, and he is a threat to win it again in 2024.

But consider these numbers: McCaffrey is clearly the best running back in the NFL, but there are now 25 wide receivers annually being paid more than him, including players like Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy, and Diontae Johnson.

Those three players combined for 2,168 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. McCaffrey finished with 2,023 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns by himself.

CeeDee Lamb (+850)

On the list of wide receivers, next to get paid is CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys. He finished last season just 50 yards behind Tyreek Hill, and Lamb’s 135 receptions led the NFL. He also was one of the few Cowboys who showed up for their Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers, catching nine passes for 110 yards.

The Cowboys had the highest-scoring offense in 2023, and Lamb was a huge reason why. 

Lamb is still playing on his rookie contract, and he is a free agent in 2025. If the Cowboys want to keep him, and they should, he is going to make in the $32 million-$35 million per season range.

Ja’Marr Chase (+1200)

At least for one more season in Cincinnati, barring an unforeseen trade, the Cincinnati Bengals will have Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase as their wide receivers. And that is a good thing for Chase. He thrives in the gun-slinging offense of the Bengals, and has averaged 1,239 receiving yards in his three seasons, which includes five missed games in 2022 and the missed time last year for quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase is an obvious Offensive Player of the Year candidate, and a candidate to break the record that Jefferson’s contract just set. At some point in 2024, the Bengals will need to get him signed beyond the 2025 fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

Justin Jefferson (+1500)

Jefferson won the Offensive Player of the Year award in 2022, one of three wide receivers to win it over the last five years. Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams won in 2021, and Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints was the winner in 2019.

Jefferson would be higher on this list and have shorter odds if not for the change at quarterback in Minnesota. Gone is Kirk Cousins, who was a perfect complement to Jefferson. But even last year, with Jefferson missing seven games because of injury and Cousins missing most of the season with a torn Achilles, Jefferson still went for more than 1,000 yards. In 2022, he led the league with 1,809 receiving yards.

This year, Jefferson will have Sam Darnold or rookie J.J. McCarthy throwing him the ball. He’s still going to be great, but the Minnesota offense will be a work in progress for much of the season, and that will likely suppress Jefferson’s overall numbers.

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