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Monday Morning Mailbag: Justin Jefferson's Contract Extension & Winter Warrior Uniforms

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town in the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

What a week to follow-up.

Since the previous publication of last week's Mailbag, Justin Jefferson reached an agreement to remain with the Vikings through 2028, and he and teammates helped launch the Winter Warrior uniforms that will be accented by the first use of a white helmet in franchise history.

Jefferson released the video announcing his agreement to a contract extension last Monday. Hopefully that announcement soothed folks who had been emailing me about what was taking so long.

Throughout the process, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and Owner/President Mark Wilf consistently said they intended for Jefferson to be a Viking for years to come. No matter what rumors circulated — and there were some wild ones perpetuated — they remained calm as they worked on a solution that led to Jefferson becoming the highest-paid non-QB in the NFL. It's an incredible accomplishment for a player once viewed as an "undersized kid" not big enough for college football.

The Vikings launched the Winter Warrior uniforms with a flurry of social media activity. Creation of alt uniforms — and that spiffy new helmet — is a long process. It was exciting to see the work that colleagues had put in come to fruition and be received with such positivity.

O'Connell flipped the schedule for the team's mandatory minicamp this year, moving the three-day event to last week instead of making it the final week of the offseason workout program. Rookies and select veterans will have one more round of voluntary Organized Team Activity practices this week. After that, they won't be on the field together again until 2024 Vikings Training Camp.

That means we're closer to announcing details of camp, so please keep an eye out for those.

Lastly, thanks to folks for sending in questions for the Daunte Culpepper edition of MMM. Folks have until noon (CT) today, June 10, to send in any more questions. I'll relay them when he's in town for the Minnesota Vikings Foundation Golf Tournament, and we'll publish that edition on June 24.

I read that the Vikings may still be looking for a WR (even RB or DB) now that [Jefferson] is signed and there is cap space available. I read there is $27.49 million of cap space. I think K.J. Osborn is good enough to be the No. 3 WR, so why did they give him up? Then, I think of Adam [Thielen] and how he would be a still great fit on the team too. Either K.J. or Adam would make me happy to be on the team. [Hunter Renfrow is still available — he's good.]

Can you explain how/why all that happened?

— Gill Sorg in New Mexico

Teams are always looking for who is or might be available.

Minnesota was able to add tight end Robert Tonyan after an impressive workout last month, and he quickly impressed in practices.

I'll always want personally great things for Osborn and Thielen. Osborn wound up signing with New England, and Thielen remains with Carolina.

Projected cap money (for the next several seasons) has changed quite a bit this offseason with the departures of Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter in free agency, as well as signings the Vikings have made.

Minnesota will assess how things unfolded during the offseason program at all positions, evaluating if players are where they were projected to be. Jordan Addison had an incredible spring, and Jefferson is Jefferson, so people should be excited about that tandem.

We do know that Brandon Powell made multiple plays in an expanded role without Jefferson last season, and coaches have spoken well of Jalen Nailor, although he was not able to participate in last week's minicamp because of an illness.

This catch by Trent Sherfield, Sr., of an absolute dart from J.J. McCarthy raised eyebrows last Thursday for multiple reasons.

We'll see more action from younger players this week as they wrap OTAs and give themselves the best foundation for competing during training camp.

I wish that the Owners would quit messing with the uniforms. Please go back to the original helmets with the bigger horn. Those were cool uniforms! I think they had an effect on the opposing teams. Pay homage to the great teams from the late '60s to the '70s.

— Nighthawk

Well, I guess you can't please everyone, but this is the only email I received that was critical of the new uniforms. I'm including it because of the difference in perspective from my opinion and most of the reactions I've seen on social media.

Current players, including Jefferson, like the white-on-white uniform look that was introduced at home in 2022 for the first Winter Whiteout game (against the Giants). The organization wanted to gauge the response from fans.

Using feedback from the multitudes that I also agreed with, the organization then went through the two-year process of creating the alternate helmet. This post and graphic highlight fans' requests for the white helmet.

NFL rules have extended in recent years to allow teams to create up to two alternate uniforms that can each be worn up to two times in a regular season.

In 2021, the NFL approved an adjustment to allow usage of a second helmet, beginning in 2022. This spring, rules were expanded again to allow a third helmet.

The Vikings Classic was launched in summer 2023 and debuted in Week 1. Minnesota donned the look again against the Bears on Monday Night Football last season.

Those uniforms were designed with a deeper purple on the jersey, traditional block numbers and sans serif letters to pay homage to the "Decade of Dominance" teams. Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton even helped roll them out last year.

Covering that launch, connecting those uniforms to past players and getting to interview Tarkenton last year when the Vikings visited the Falcons were among my favorite highlights of 2023. Part of the interview was included in this feature last year.

Had the Vikings done more than switch up the face mask (changed to gray for when wearing The Classic), then the NFL could have determined that to be an alt helmet, which may have prevented the white helmet from happening (under the previous rules that limited teams to one alt helmet).

An interesting note is teams are not allowed to go beyond their franchise color palettes when they create alternative uniforms. Because gray had been used on the facemasks worn by the likes of Tarkenton, Carl Eller, Alan Page, Paul Krause and Jim Marshall, as well as revived for the helmets that accompany The Classic, it was an option for inclusion on the Winter Warrior look, which Lindsey Young detailed here.

The Vikings plan to implement the Winter Warrior look when hosting the Bears this season, a contest currently scheduled for Dec. 16 on Monday Night Football.

Unfortunately, Minnesota went 0-2 last season in The Classic. The team will try to rectify that mark in future usages to more effectively pay homage to that era.

View photos of Vikings players posing in the new "Winter Warrior" alternate uniforms.

With all the talks and disagreements about an 18-game schedule, why can't the NFL and NFLPA discuss having 18 games, but players are only allowed to play in 16 (or 17 or 15) games. This could solve another point of contention with roster expansion and allow players to have that extra bye week they seem to desire. From a fan's standpoint, it would not be ideal to go to a game and not get to see your favorite player, but if that player were injured it would be no different. Thoughts?


— Jason Price in Smithfield, Virginia

Here's a creative suggestion from Jason regarding the possible expansion of the regular season from 17 to 18 games.

NFL Owners and the NFL Players Association agreed to expand the slate from 16 to 17 games for the 2021 season, so we'll already be in the fourth year of that.

Capping the number of games in which a player could appear could open several cans of worms since many players have incentive-laden contracts. It also would add to the drama of a season, but it might yield unideal circumstances. A backup quarterback's value would become even more important, right?

The salary cap has skyrocketed since the regular season expanded, likely a popular outcome for both sides.

Like all negotiations, there will be some back-and-forth from both parties in their discussions.

I am flummoxed by the win-loss projections the Vikings are receiving from the pundits. I have seen predictions as low as three wins. From my perspective, the Vikings aced the offseason, even including the loss of Cousins and Hunter. The free-agent signings of [Jonathan] Greenard and [Andrew] Van Ginkel and the drafting of [Dallas] Turner will make the pass rush better. The signing of LB [Blake] Cashman and CB [Shaq] Griffin and the drafting of CB [Khyree] Jackson solidify the defense. I am optimistic that [Defensive Coordinator] Brian Flores will have a top-10 defense this season.

The offense has the best receiving corps in football and will be great even if TE [T.J.] Hockenson doesn't start until midseason. They could go 3-wide. The o-line is more than solid. They have one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL. Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler are a good pair of RBs, and where the media is questioning the Viking QBs, you'd have to think that with either [Sam] Darnold or McCarthy starting they would perform at least as middle-of-the-pack QBs or better.

I think the Vikings, depending on injuries, etc., will be somewhere between 8 and 10 wins.

— Jerry Carrier in Lakeville, Minnesota

Based on the longstanding history of the Vikings, projecting three wins, which would tie for the second-lowest total in franchise history (2-11-1 in 1962 is the worst), seems low. Despite everything that has happened in the past decade, Minnesota has won at least seven games every season since 2014, for a 92-70-1 mark in 163 regular-season games (win percentage of .567 ranks 11th in the NFL in that span).

Those big departures of Cousins and Hunter probably have a lot to do with the mindset of the folks who are expecting less from the Vikings than the team expects. Darnold has had a solid spring while taking first-team reps, and the Vikings have a "full house" of skill players around him.

Quarterback changes are significant. Always. But they can be offset/managed.

Hunter was incredible, but teams double-teamed him and sometimes triple-teamed him. Diversifying the ways Minnesota can attack and affect quarterbacks might cause opponents more problems or at least force them to allocate resources a little differently.

View photos of Vikings players during minicamp practice at the TCO Performance Center.

I've been a Vikes fan since the early '70s. My objective is what it would take for the team to be a Super Bowl contender. We can't continue to groom persons, then trade them because of financial situations. We've been around too long. It's about time we stop giving our fans false hope. We had some great players, great coaches. Where is the problem? The window of opportunity is closing.

— Michael M.

While projections for the 2024 team have ranged a little bit, some of the same people are talking about a new window opening with some of the long-term moves the Vikings have made this offseason to reshuffle the deck.

In the past decade, 12 teams out of 32 are above .500. Since 1961, the Vikings win percentage of .546 in regular-season games ranks eighth, but Minnesota is the only squad out of the 15 teams above .500 in that span to not win at least one Super Bowl.

I don't categorize trying to compete consistently as false hope, but I understand the desire of fans to see the Vikings kick down the final door and win their first Super Bowl.

Adofo-Mensah spoke with Twin Cities media members last Tuesday after Jefferson's press conference. Included in the discussion was this quote that provided an assessment heading into his third season as GM.

"You have two-year timelines in the NFL. You probably can't plan any longer than that. Ultimately, you're always trying to figure out where you are, where you want to go. And how do you close that gap," Adofo-Mensah said. "Every situation that you walk into is different. I walked into a team that I thought, and Kevin thought, could win in Year 1, right? So that's a different dynamic than maybe some other people's positions.

"But we ultimately knew we had to get to this place where we set it up over the long term, to be flexible, I think we were able to do that are really excited about our team," he added. "Look, we're not patting ourselves on the back here. This is a really good division. I really think you have to earn everything every minute you go out. So we're happy with our plan, but plans don't get you really far in this league. It's showing up every day on the grass and getting better to be the best team we can."