NFL rumors: Justin Jefferson claims he is 'same player' without Kirk Cousins
The Minnesota Vikings face a difficult decision at the QB position this offseason. Kirk Cousins enters free agency in search of at least $90 million guaranteed. Minnesota, meanwhile, has been trending toward a reset. Cousins' ruptured Achilles only adds to the uncertainty around his future. He was productive before the injury — 2,331 yards, 18 touchdowns, five interceptions in eight starts — but Cousins is 35 years old, now on the wrong side of a major knee ailment. It's hard to predict his level of production moving forward.
If the Vikings do move on from Cousins, the options to replace him are limited. The free agency pool is shallow. Joe Flacco or Ryan Tannehill wouldn't address Minnesota's desire for youth. Mason Rudolph was productive in a brief starting stint for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but four weeks of productive football across four NFL seasons isn't enough to proceed with confidence. Baker Mayfield is the best option available, and he doesn't necessarily move the needle.
So, there's a strong chance the Vikings will either suffer through a temporary veteran downgrade or start a rookie at QB. That leads to natural concern about Justin Jefferson and how his production might be impacted. For what it's worth, however, the 24-year-old Pro Bowler is confident no matter who lines up under center.
"It could be Kirk, it could not be Kirk," Jefferson said on the Super Bowl Live broadcast. "I have no idea, but it doesn't matter who's going to be throwing me that ball, you know I'm going to be that same type of player."
Bold, but ultimately true. Jefferson missed a large chunk of last season to injury, but he went for 503 yards and caught two touchdowns in five games with Josh Dobbs and Nick Mullens at QB. He might not achieve his standard MVP-level output, but Jefferson will still stress defenses with his unmatched open-field athleticism and tough-catch ability. Quality QB play is essential to winning games, but it's equally important to put quality weapons around your quarterback. Jefferson will give the Vikings' signal-caller an immediate leg up on the competition, regardless of who it is.