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How Will Monster Justin Jefferson Extension Impact Steelers WR Pursuit?

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Justin Jefferson Minnesota Vikings Pittsburgh Steelers

The Minnesota Vikings and Justin Jefferson re-set the wide receiver market — and the market for all non-quarterbacks — with his historic four-year, $140 million contract extension that makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.

The deal includes $88.7 million due at signing and $110 million in guaranteed money. So what does the monster extension between Jefferson and the Vikings mean for the Pittsburgh Steelers continued pursuit of a wide receiver on the trade market?

Well, for one, you can cross Jefferson’s name off the list. It was always a longshot that the Vikings would look to move on from their star receiver, especially after using a first-round draft pick on quarterback J.J. McCarthy. They’re going to want to have weapons around their young passer. Jefferson’s deal also conveniently expires before McCarthy will have to have his rookie contract extended, so they can pay big money at the wide receiver position while getting cheap quarterback play.

But where it gets really interesting his how the big deal at the top of the market will impact others around the league.

Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers is still looking for a contract extension, and has been repeatedly mentioned in trade talks with the Steelers. Aiyuk is a year older than Jefferson, but in 2023 he out-performed the Vikings star statistically. 

Aiyuk caught 75 passes for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns, while Jefferson caught 68 passes for 1,074 yards and five touchdowns. Jefferson dealt with upheaval at the quarterback position after an injury to Kirk Cousins, but nobody things of Brock Purdy as a star in San Francisco, either.

Over the last three years, Jefferson has been the more productive player, bringing in 304 receptions for 4,499 yards and 23 touchdowns. In that same time span, Aiyuk has caught 209 passes for 3,183 yards and 20 TDs. Jefferson was also the 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, a two-time Pro Bowler and an first-team All-Pro in that span. Aiyuk was a second-team All-Pro last season, but that’s all.

LSU WR Justin Jefferson

LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson at the 2020 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. — Alan Saunders / Steelers Now

So it makes sense that Jefferson might demand a little bit more than Aiyuk in the market, but not that much more. The 49ers star had reportedly been seeking a new contract that put him ahead of the deal just signed by Amon-Ra St. Brown with the Detroit Lions. St. Brown’s four-year deal is worth a total of $120 million, with a $16.5 million signing bonus and $77 million guaranteed.

So while the 49ers might’ve signed Aiyuk to a four-year, $125 million extension with $80 million guaranteed yesterday, that deal will now pale in comparison to Jefferson’s. Will that be enough to get a deal done? And if not, will San Francisco want to meet his asking price, trade Aiyuk this offseason, or simply let him play out the final year of his deal before walking in free agency?

That becomes the question for San Francisco general manager John Lynch over these next few months, and the WR-needy Steelers will certainly be paying close attention.

Jefferson isn’t the only wide receiver still looking for a new deal. Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals could also be impacted, though it’s unlikely the Bengals would trade him to a division rival. Cincy also still needs to reach a long-term deal with receiver Ja’Marr Chase. CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys  and Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins could also look to cash in after Jefferson’s record-setting extension.

Those players are unlikely to be traded, but if their deals come in closer to Jefferson’s, they could continue to increase the price the 49ers might have to pay for Aiyuk. With remaining cap space in 2024 and one of the lowest totals committed to 2025, the Steelers are in position to be able to give Aiyuk the big deal that he’s looking for.

RELATED: Justin Jefferson Sounds Off on George Pickens’ Effort Comments: ‘Don’t Live by That’

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Jesus Christani
Jesus Christani
June 3, 2024 12:53 pm

Impact on The Steelers? There is only one WR who The Pittsburgh Steelers should be in pursuit of: Brandon Aiyuk… maaaaybe Deebo… I trust both of those WRs more than I trust George Pickens to become a legitimate WR1 in the NFL… Aiyuk and Deebo have proven, ‘it,’ on and off the field… George is just, ‘a highlight reel,’ at this point (he did put in a lot of good offseason work, though) who has already shown that he is capable of going in the direction that AB went, on The Steelers, with his mental abilities (or lack there of)…… Read more »

William R. Maloni Sr.
William R. Maloni Sr.
June 3, 2024 1:09 pm

That almost crushes the Steelers’ chances, even though they have plenty of cap space now and for the next two years to do a major WR deal.

Less Tomlin
Less Tomlin
June 3, 2024 4:47 pm

Sutton for 2 years/32 mil and a 3rd round pick to Denver. Then get Cam Sutton if he escapes battery. Sutton & Sutton or some facsimile is needed to compete for a playoff spot.

Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
June 4, 2024 11:39 am

as a true Steelers fan, Justin Jefferson’s contract won’t bother the Steelers because Steelers owner Arthur Joseph Rooney ll won’t over spend