Friday Mailbag: Proposing a JJ contract
Vikings fans seem pretty nervous about what's next for Justin Jefferson
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By Matthew Coller
Happy Friday everyone! Whew, we’re almost there. Super Bowl freaking Sunday is upon us. Everybody have a great time watching The Big Game and then it’s off to the offseason races… of course, in the mailbag, we’re already there, so let’s dive in…
Thomas… So Matthew how did radio row in Vegas compare to 2018 when the Super Bowl radio row was in the food court at Mall of America?
Well, there wasn’t a Shake Shack within 50 feet in Vegas, so that was a downside. Eating inside of Mandalay Bay was crazy expensive. It cost $28 for the same little bowl of orange chicken and rice that you’d get for $9 at Panda Express. The biggest plus for Vegas was space. It took place in a giant convention center so the tables had tons of space between them and when I needed to do a phone interview or podcast it was easy to spread out and find a place. Because walking around was so easy, I met way more people this time. That’s my favorite part. It’s cool to see random celebrities — I checked in for my credential with Frank Caliendo — but I most enjoyed just talking ball with folks.
Bradley P… You’re the GM today. Congratulations! What would you do in the first round? Trade up/down? Draft a quarterback or one of the many other positions they could use?
I’m going to need a wardrobe update to be the GM. I’d just draft the best quarterback available at No. 11 if there was no chance at trading up. Let’s not overcomplicate this thing. Whether it’s McCarthy, Nix or Penix Jr., whoever KOC likes most, I’m taking him. I’ll build the rest of the roster through Brian Flores’ development and the cap space I’m getting in 2025 when Cousins is off the books. We really don’t need to overcomplicate this…. except if KOC hates all those quarterbacks, then it becomes complicated. Then I’m trying for Baker Mayfield on a short deal that doesn’t crush the cap down the road and allows me to take a shot at QB like Spencer Rattler this year and aim to pick another one next year. But the problem with that is the Vikings have continued to run into Perfect Prospect Syndrome at quarterback and never end up picking one.
Marv…. I think JJ McCarthy is the perfect QB for KOC and his offense. I’m worried however that once JJ has his pre-draft workouts, he will be discovered and won’t be available at #11. If JJ is there at #11, do the Vikings take him?
Right now Mock Draft Database has McCarthy and Nix neck and neck for being taken at the back end of the first round. What we’ve seen historically (I did an article on this earlier this week) is that players who are ranked by the consensus boards between 20-30 end up all over the place. Mahomes was taken way higher, Drew Lock was taken way lower and yet they had the same big board rank from the mock draft community. I do not have any sense for what the league actually thinks of McCarthy, Nix or Penix Jr. It does seem like McCarthy would be the most likely to have a surprisingly high draft stock because he has raw tools but I think we’re in a spot with these guys where it wouldn’t be surprising if two of the three went in the top 15 or dropped to the 40-60 range.
john… Hey Matthew, I've always wondered about trading back or up. If you're a GM who wants to trade back but have a specific player you want, do they ask the trading up team who they are taking before consummating the deal?
If it’s involving a quarterback then everybody knows what’s going on. If the Vikings call the Patriots and offer three first-round picks the Pats know it’s for a QB but I don’t think the team that’s trying to trade up would tell anyone who they are trying to get when making those calls. This is kinda why we have the draft trade charts. I remember an NFL GM saying that the league was still using the old Jimmy Johnson chart until just a few years ago because it allowed everyone to have the same general idea of what picks were worth. There are different versions now but the idea is the same. The Patriots’ pick at No. 3 is worth X when there’s a QB on the board and Y when there isn’t and they’d factor that into their demands.
Salty Dave… My question, less for you than the anti-Kwesi crowd who don't credit him for the Addison pick: how do we know that Kwesi wasn't advocating for taking Puka or Tank a few rounds later and adding a pick via trade and bolstering the defense?
I watched the VEN draft video and never thought twice about how the Addison pick happened. They hired these guys to work together (i.e. “collaboration”). If it was KOC’s idea to pick Addison, who cares. They don’t scrub the GM’s name off the Super Bowl ring if someone else was the reason they picked a guy. In fact, didn’t Andre Patterson pick out Danielle Hunter? Fire Rick!
Anyway, we don’t have a clear answer on KAM as a general manager yet. I want to see how this offseason plays out before I form an opinion because I think they have stuck to the plan from when they were hired so far and I want to see it come to fruition. There has been reasonable criticisms like the ‘22 draft approach and the Davenport signing but right now there’s too many unreasonable criticisms.
Ben… How shocking would it be if the Bears really stuck with Fields instead of drafting a QB??
Like 9/10 shocking. There is an argument for doing it, which would be the 49ers. Rather than draft a QB they could just keep stacking and stacking until either Fields was going to win with them or someone else could come in and do it but I don’t see how you can pass up on Williams or Maye. They are franchise QB-caliber prospects and cheap for five years. That would allow the Bears to make more plays like the Montez Sweat deal and they still have a top-10 pick. They have a huge sample size on Fields and it’s a lot of ups and downs. Maybe someday somewhere else he has a great season and maybe Williams/Maye busts but odds wise it’s very hard to see them not taking their chances with putting a No. 1 QB into a (suddenly) good position to succeed quickly.
Thomas… Which coaching slots do the Vikings need to fill? And do you know why changes occurred in the training staff?
Looks like the Bengals hired their assistant offensive line coach. They also need a D-line coach to replace Chris Rumph and possible outside linebackers coach depending on Mike Smith’s status. It doesn’t appear that they are making any other changes. I did wonder if they would bring in a new RBs coach or run game coordinator but we haven’t seen that yet. I do not know what happened with the training staff. It’s a little odd because they scored such high marks from the NFLPA survey in the first year. That’s on the list of things to ask about at the Combine.
Ramsey… what's the biggest lesson the Vikings should learn from the Chiefs and Niners when it comes to on-the-field success? Not letting you get the "draft Mahomes" crutch haha
Draft Mahomes is something for the Vikings isn’t it? They had QB stability, a team stumbling around in the middle that wasn’t good enough to go to the Super Bowl and they decided it was time to take a swing. Mahomes wasn’t even liked by a lot of the draft community. Todd McShay’s final 2017 mock had him going 25th. You can’t win if you don’t play.
Other things: Weapons make offensive coordinators look like geniuses. I appreciate Kyle Shanahan as much as the next guy but he knows he can’t do it alone with a white board. They picked Aiyuk when Samuel was already there. Traded for Williams and McCaffrey. Just never stopped adding playmakers. Oh, by the way, they could afford to acquire those great players because their QB makes $880k.
Kansas City stacked up their secondary. Life is really hard for an offense when the opposing team has multiple really good cornerbacks. I’m a D-line enjoyer as much as anyone but L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie are better than any corners the Vikings have had since 2017. They need to find that dude who can handle top receivers.
Kip… Who wins the game ? I’m going SF 31-28, FB gets sealing 1st down.. 1st round prediction for Vikings ?
I’ll go Kansas City 28-24 but I like your idea to involve a fullback. I can’t really make a first-round prediction until I know what they are doing at quarterback. If Kirk goes, then I’d say they pick one of the three options that aren’t the top three guys but if he stays they probably take a defensive lineman.
Josh… Not to be a negative BUT, Can we all agree that the sugar rush that came from the post Kirk injury wins was NOT worth the amount of hand ringing and future assets we might give up to go and get a Top 3 QB (if we do)…now in the offseason, I am increasingly annoyed with the lack of foresight KOC and KAM posses. They had a natural tank and let it slip through their hands!! Do you think anyone in the FO understands that? Rant aside, with the Combine on the horizon of the three QBs (JJ,Penix, Nix), who do you think the likeliest riser is going to be for coming out of the combine?
Of course it wasn’t worth it. I remember Jeremiah Sirles saying they should trade Hunter before the 49ers game so they didn’t win that one and convince themselves that they were actually a contender. Welp! We do have to remember that when they traded for Dobbs he was 2-9 in his career and Nick Mullens was hurt and it’s altogether possible that Mullens would have messed around and won some games and went 6-11 or 7-10 anyway.
This is the hard part about the dynamic between a coach and GM who want to collaborate. The coach is only focused on winning (as they should be) but the GM is supposed to have a longer term view. They tried to split the difference between the two by keeping Hunter and trading for Dobbs rather than spending more capital to get Jacoby Brissett or something. So you end up with 7-10 rather than 5-12 and the 11th pick rather than the 5th pick. This is the story of the Minnesota Vikings summed up.
McCarthy seems the most likely to rise but the most important things about these evaluations are things we’re not going to be able to see. KOC is going to sit down with them and go through his interview process and that’s going to matter a lot. They also look for things with mechanics that we might not be looking at during workouts. Always beware the post Combine reports. Lotta lies get told in Indy. The draft community might tell you somebody helped their stock when we will really only know on draft night.
Side note, I love that we have Mock Draft Database and Grinding The Mocks to show us just how much BS is out there.
This chart is from Grinding The Mocks. It shows Malik Willis’ draft stock rising at the Combine and then dipping right before the draft and then he was taken 86th.
Dan… Let's say you're the GM and you really like all six of the potential first round quarterbacks. The first three go 1-2-3, and then all three of the other QB's are available at 11. Would you have the guts to go for value by trading down or picking a defensive player while still hoping to get one of those QB's?
Depends on how far we’re trading down. Denver and Las Vegas have pretty strong arguments to draft quarterbacks and so does Seattle at 16. Maybe in that scenario I’d go down to 15 with Indy but that’s it. I’m definitely not picking a defensive player and then hoping to trade back into the first round. I’d rather “reach” according to the outside world than miss out on my QB.
Jason… Who wins this weekend?
Me. I’m going to eat some pizza, watch football and then do a post-game podcast on YouTube.
I’ll never bet against Mahomes. If he’s in the game, I’m picking him.
Denton… Despite the research and other due diligence work, there still seems to be a lot of luck involved in drafting any position but even more so with qb. What would u guess is the chance of success with a qb at 11 or late teens if the Vikes trade back? Is it 50/50?
I’m not sure there’s more luck involved in QB than any other position but it’s always under the microscope more and it’s the position most impacted by external factors. Maybe there are some corners or receivers who could have been better with better surrounding casts but a huge part of QB success is what you put around them with coaching and playmakers. For odds of success, yes, I’d go 50-50. That depends on your definition of success. In my mind if you draft a QB who is good enough to give you one chance at the Super Bowl in his rookie contract, that’s a success. If we go back and look at first-round QBs and ask “did their team have at least one shot” then we find about a 50-50 split. If you are only looking for THAT GUY who is Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Jackson… well, it’s probably closer to 10%. How do you know which is which though? Only one of those guys I just named were No. 1 overall picks. Take a swing.
Jeff… I'm not questioning JJ's value - not one bit. He's performed magnificently on the field, been a good teammate and citizen and he's young. He deserves to be the highest paid WR. No question. However, there has to be a ceiling. I mean, he can't demand 50% of the cap. That said, and since he will be setting the market, how high should the Vikings go? Is Bosa plus 5% the top? I know we are just speculating, but there has to be a ceiling. Comment?
I keep going back to AJ Brown’s deal. He went for four years, $100 million with $56 million fully guaranteed (most in the NFL at receiver). Here’s how they structured it:
Note the low cap hits early on, the big base salary later that they can convert to bonus. Look at those cap percentages. It only gets to 10% in 2025 and that number will be changed when they get there. That’s why the comparisons between JJ and a big QB contract are way off. Cousins has made as much as 17% of the cap.
I would project four years, $130 million with $70 million fully guaranteed. It would make him the richest receiver in the league.
This is just me screwing around with OverTheCap.com:
We can’t act like this contract is going to destroy the Vikings’ future cap.