Jefferson ‘not mad at’ Cousins for leaving Vikes

Throughout his trying 2023 season, wide receiver Justin Jefferson left no doubt about his preference for the future of the Minnesota Vikings‘ quarterback position: He hoped Kirk Cousins would return but would not demand it.

Speaking Tuesday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Jefferson said he understood Cousins’ decision to sign with the Atlanta Falcons and added, “I’m not mad at him at all for that.”

Cousins started 54 of Jefferson’s first 60 NFL games over four seasons. The Vikings are starting over in 2024 with veteran Sam Darnold and rookie J.J. McCarthy, the No. 10 pick in the draft.

“I always knew that Kirk was going to do whatever he needs to do for his businesses-wise,” Jefferson told Eisen, “and I just knew that everything just wasn’t the way he wanted it to be here, especially just with having to pay me and having to pay so many other different guys. I feel like he just wanted a new start, a new opportunity to start with Atlanta and a clean slate and I’m not mad at him at all for that. I’m grateful for what he has brought to me and the things that we have accomplished together.

“But at the end of the day, it’s a business and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for yourself and for your family, and I clearly understand that. But it’s on to the next. It doesn’t really matter what quarterback it is in my eyes. I’m always going to try to make the best of the opportunity. I’m always going to try to be the quarterback’s friend and make his job a lot easier. It doesn’t matter if it was Kirk or if it’s Sam or if it’s J.J. I’m going to make it as easy as possible for him.”

The Vikings negotiated with Cousins for months after the season, but ultimately were well short of the Falcons’ four-year, $180 million offer that included $100 million in guarantees over the first three seasons.

Jefferson received a four-year, $140 million contract extension from the Vikings last month. The average of $35 million in new money made him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

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