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Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: With or without Kirk Cousins 'I'm going to be that same type of player'

If it was up to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, he'd have Kirk Cousins back at quarterback next season.

He's made that much known in the past.

Regardless of whether he gets his wish, though, Jefferson is ultra-confident he'll be the same wide-receiving sensation he's been -- one who's still seeking the blockbuster extension his play has commanded.

"It could be Kirk, it could not be Kirk," Jefferson said Wednesday on NFL Network's Super Bowl Live, "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."

That same type of player has been one who has taken the NFL by storm, having produced 5,899 receiving yards, 392 receptions and 30 touchdowns in just four seasons. Despite missing seven games with a hamstring injury, Jefferson still eclipsed 1,000 yards for a fourth straight year this past season. Eye-popping numbers and jaw-dropping catches have become a standard for Jefferson, who's been eligible for an extension since last offseason and is likely to become the league's highest-paid wideout whenever payday comes.

It's a massive focus for the Vikings this offseason regardless of the future at QB, a point made by Jefferson on Wednesday and during the 2023 season. So, as the Vikings ponder re-signing Cousins or looking to another QB of the future, Jefferson isn't sure if what happens under center will impact his next contract or not.

"I'll really have to see if we really bring back Kirk or not, if we decide to want to draft, or want to pick up a quarterback," Jefferson said when asked if he would pass on doing a deal this summer if there's still uncertainty as to who the long-term QB will be. "All of that plays a part, but also, I still managed to get 1,000 yards by playing through four different quarterbacks as well, so it really doesn't matter too much who's throwing me that ball as long as someone's throwing it to me. I feel like I'm confident and I have the ability to make plays, no matter if the ball is 100 percent accurate or if it's a little behind or a little in front or a little off. So I'm always confident in my game, confident that I'm going to play the same no matter who's going to throw me the ball, but of course, having Kirk out there to be that leader and that captain, to throw that ball with accuracy and precise as he does, it definitely is very valuable and useful being a receiver."

It's clear Jefferson wants Cousins back, but it's just as clear that if Cousins doesn't return, Jefferson has no doubts he'll continue to produce. He did so in 2023 with Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall each filling in after Cousins tore his Achilles.

Thus, it's safe to predict that 24-year-old Jefferson's future is bright with or without the 35-year-old Cousins.

Taken 22nd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jefferson has quickly risen to star status, having won AP Offensive NFL Rookie of the Year with a then-Super Bowl-era record of 1,400 yards. In 2022, he collected his third Pro Bowl selection, first All-Pro accolade and led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 yards.

He knows his numbers. He knows his impact. And Jefferson knows his worth.

"I'm definitely aware of what I've been doing for the organization, what I've done ever since I stepped foot on this NFL field," Jefferson said. "So, I'm definitely going to do what's right by getting the amount that I feel I'm valued. I definitely will keep in mind the different stats and where I am as a player and as a receiver, so you know I'm going to definitely let the agent and all of that do all of the different negotiations and the different numbers, but I definitely would like and hope to be one of the highest-paid players, or especially wide receiver."

Jefferson, whose practice window was opened Nov. 8, has missed the last seven games due to a right hamstring injury sustained in a Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's in line to return to the field after the team's upcoming bye in Week 14 action against the Las Vegas Raiders.

He'll return to a Vikings contingent that sits at 6-6 and in the thick of the playoff race but has lost two straight games after rebounding from a 1-4 start punctuated by the loss of Jefferson.

Led initially by quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings rallied and won three in a row but lost their QB1 to a torn Achilles in Week 8. Rookie backup Jaren Hall was lost to a concussion the following week against the Atlanta Falcons, but Josh Dobbs, who Minnesota acquired from the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the trade deadline, jumped into the fray and led the Vikings to an improbable comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons and continued his strong play in a victory against the New Orleans Saints the next week.

The Vikings' winning streak was snapped at five games with a Week 11 loss to the Denver Broncos, however, and Dobbs struggled in a loss to the Bears on Monday, during which he threw four interceptions.

Just who Jefferson will be catching passes from upon his return is now in question, as head coach Kevin O'Connell did not commit to Dobbs as his starter going forward following Monday's defeat.

In five games this season, Jefferson has hauled in 36 receptions for 571 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 114.2 yards per game.

The Vikings visit the Raiders on Dec. 10.

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