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Lunchbreak: Justin Jefferson Extension Caps Vikings Offseason

Justin Jefferson will stay a Viking long-term, thanks to the extension announced Monday.

Reactions to the deal rolled in immediately, and among them was CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin, who said the Vikings have “all but aced” their 2024 offseason. He wrote:

The record deal, which ties Jefferson to the Vikings through 2028, doesn't just bring a rich resolution to a much-discussed contract saga, resetting the wide receiver market and keeping one of the game's top playmakers where he began his NFL career. It also confirms that Minnesota effectively aced the 2024 offseason, at least on paper.

Benjamin gave three reasons for his statement, starting with the Vikings "retaining an elite lineup of skill weapons." He noted Jefferson and fellow receiver Jordan Addison, tight end T.J. Hockenson and free agency addition Aaron Jones.

Benjamin acknowledged Hockenson is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last season but said "most teams would kill to have a foursome of this caliber."

Jefferson and Addison have both the athletic upside and proven NFL ability to become arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league. And even Jones, the oldest of the bunch, showed game-changing juice at the tail end of 2023 and figures to benefit from a shared backfield in Minnesota.

Benjamin's second reason for lauding Minnesota's offseason is that the team added options at quarterback.

You can't do much with skill weapons if you don't have a signal-caller to distribute the rock, and while the Vikings said goodbye to a proven commodity in Kirk Cousins this offseason, they also opened themselves to the possibility of higher upside over the longer term. The best part: They still have the supporting cast (see above) to help newcomers J.J. McCarthy and Sam Darnold [to] potentially provide Cousins-comparable results right away.

View the best photos of Vikings WR Justin Jefferson's time with the Vikings from 2020-23.

Finally, Benjamin said the Vikings "added upside to an already-tough defense" through the 2024 NFL Draft and free agency.

Even with enticing unknowns under center and all-star talent out wide, the Vikings aren't going to make serious noise in the NFC North if they don't also win in the trenches. Fortunately, Christian Darrisaw, Dalton Risner and Co. give them a solid front on offense. On defense, meanwhile, the interior should benefit greatly from a pass-rushing rotation that lost the imposing Danielle Hunter but gained a deeper slew of younger options, including former Houston Texans standout Jonathan Greenard and first-round rookie Dallas Turner.

Throw in ex-Texans linebacker Blake Cashman and former Miami Dolphins rusher Andrew Van Ginkel, and [Defensive Coordinator] Brian Flores should have more tools at his disposal after a 2023 debut in which his Vikings often overachieved to stay competitive. The secondary isn't without questions, but coupled with the offensive talent and the [Kevin] O'Connell-led coaching staff, the Vikings register as one of the more balanced teams across the NFL – so much so they might well find themselves immediately back in the playoff picture.

3 Vikings safeties included in PFF's Top 32

Analytics site Pro Football Focus has been ranking the top 32 players per position group, and three Vikings safeties landed on the recent list by PFF's Zoltán Buday.

Harrison Smith, who is entering his 13th season with the Vikings, was slated 16th overall. Buday wrote:

At 35 years old, Smith, who is arguably the best safety of the past 10 seasons, might not be the player he once was, but he still plays at a high level.

Across the first eight weeks of the 2023 season, he ranked 17th both in PFF overall grade and coverage grade. He allowed just 8.3 yards per reception in 2023, the fifth-lowest mark among safeties.

View photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2023 season.

Josh Metellus came in at No. 19 after playing numerous positions in Flores' defensive system last season.

Metellus flashed ability on his way to an 85.1 PFF overall grade in 2022 in a limited role, but 2023 represented a new challenge. It was the first time that Metellus logged more than 300 snaps, and he immediately topped 1,000. He did not disappoint in an increased role, as he was among the NFL's more versatile safeties and led the position with 116 pass-rush snaps. He was one of just five safeties to earn coverage, pass-rush and run-defense grades all above 64.0.

View photos of Vikings S Josh Metellus from the 2023 season.

And coming in at No. 25 is Camryn Bynum, who finished the 2023 season as PFF's 22nd-ranked safety by grade. He started all 17 games for the Vikings and totaled 137 tackles, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and nine passes defensed.

Bynum's 85.7 overall grade after the first 14 weeks ranked fourth at the position. He also tied for the most forced incompletions over the season (nine) and could have had an even better season if he capitalized on a league-leading three dropped interceptions.