Charley Walters: Vikings’ Justin Jefferson will soon be NFL’s highest-paid receiver

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The Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill, 28, the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, has a contract that averages $30 million a season through 2026, with $72 million of the $120 million deal guaranteed. That will be surpassed by the Minnesota Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, who’s not eligible for the huge extension until after the season.

Jefferson, 23, is expected to get more than $150 million over five years, with at least $75 million guaranteed. Technically, the Vikings could extend Jefferson the day after the season ends, but normally such contracts are completed just before training camp in July.

— Jefferson is the No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, with Hill a close second, opined “Inside the NFL” analyst Brandon Marshall last week. Meanwhile, colleague Julian Edelman said Stefan Diggs of the Buffalo Bills is the best.

— Theoretically, Jefferson has become a NFL Most Valuable Player candidate, but that award almost always goes to quarterbacks, for instance this season to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

— New Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson, 25, is signed for $9.4 million in the final season of a $19.8 million, four-year deal next year, but is also up for a nice extension in the offseason.

Tight ends are more affordable than wide receivers.

— It looks like the Vikings, depending on how they do in the playoffs, will be picking between Nos. 20 and 27 in the first round of next April’s draft. Also, they don’t have a second-round pick. So at this point, there’s little question that Kirk Cousins, 34, will return as QB with a salary cap hit of $$36.3 million. There’s no path to acquire another starting QB.

It won’t happen, but there are teams, including the Vikings’ next opponent, the New York Jets, who probably would give up a first-round draft pick for Cousins. The problem is replacing Cousins if he were traded.

— A parking lot adjacent to U.S. Bank Stadium is charging $150 per car for Vikings games and gets filled up. A few blocks away, a lot that normally charges $40 for Vikings games now is charging $50. “Because the Vikings are winning,” an attendant said, “and when they do well, we do well.”
Before the Gophers-Iowa game, a parking lot five blocks from Huntington Bank Stadium was charging $45.

— The Vikings don’t play outside again until Jan. 1 at Green Bay. Composite won-loss record of remaining Vikings opponents is 28-36.

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— Entering Saturday’s games, Michigan running back Blake Corum, considered a top-five Heisman Trophy candidate, had rushed for 1,457 yards, an average of 5.9 with 18 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Gophers running back Mo Ibrahim, inexplicably unheralded as a Heisman prospect, had rushed for 1,524 yards, a 5.5 average, with 19 TDs.

Ibrahim’s 263 yards against Iowa last Saturday led the nation. Entering Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, he led the nation with 152 yards per game.

— The Gophers have just five retired football jersey numbers: Bobby Bell’s 78, Paul Giel’s 10, Bronco Nagurski’s 72, Bruce Smith’s 54 and Sandy Stephens’ 15. No modern era jerseys have been retired.

— The Gophers men’s basketball team recently defeated St. Francis Brooklyn 72-54. St. Thomas defeated St. Francis 84-48. Then Troy State, which was upset 78-76 by St. Thomas this season, in its previous game defeated Florida State.

— The Twins’ new uniforms were designed by Matthew Wolff, a gifted St. Paul Academy, Skidmore College and New York City Parsons School of Design grad who is the son of Hugh Wolff, the acclaimed former music director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Wolff, 32, has designed sports logos and jerseys worldwide, including uniforms worn by France and Nigeria in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. When he was contacted by the Twins, he said, “it made my heart flutter.”

“Normally when I start sports branding projects, it starts with a tremendous amount of research on the market and the team. But here, the research is my lived experience. I’ve been a Twins fan forever, grew up a couple miles from the Metrodome, spent many a birthday and many an evening there watching Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor.

“The theme of the project and branding effort was inspired by the past and built for the future. The measure of its success will be in its longevity.”

Wolff, who resides in New York City, spent more than a year working on the project. His father is teaching and conducting at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and recently conducted at the Belgium Symphony Orchestra.

— Joe Mauer headlines the Twins’ 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. Mauer becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2024.

— It looks like the Twins in Kyle Farmer have their shortstop replacement for free agent Carlos Correa, at least temporarily.

“I love him,” Walter Jocketty said.

Jocketty, a Minneapolis native who is executive advisor to the Cincinnati Reds’ CEO and three times was major league baseball’s executive of the year, was speaking of Farmer, whom the Twins acquired last week in a trade.

“I really like him” Jocketty said. “He’ll grow on you. He did a great job at shortstop when we needed him. He’s a gamer, a hard worker, a great family guy, just an excellent guy. He’s got some power. He came up with a lot of clutch hits for us. You’re going to like him a lot.”

Also, significantly, Farmer can play third base. The Twins last week traded third baseman Gil Urshela to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I was sorry to see us trade him,” Jocketty said, “but we have to do some things to manage our payroll.”

Farmer, 32, played for $3.2 million last season. Eligible for salary arbitration, he’s expected to cost the Twins nearly $6 million next year and bridge shortstop until Royce Lewis, 23, recovers from a second major knee surgery.

— You will never meet a better guy than Dennis Denning, the iconic Cretin and University of St. Thomas baseball coach who passed away at 78 and whose wake Is Monday from 4-8 p.m. at O’Halloran and Murphy in St. Paul. Funeral Mass is Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Church of the Assumption. Buzz Hannahan and Johnny Tauer will eulogize their coach, with venerated Fr. John Malone presiding the Mass.

— For next Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves at Target Center, 6-foot-11 Roseville High grad Mike Muscala of the Oklahoma City Thunder and father Bob have given away 108 tickets with a request that a voluntary contribution be made to a local school athletic department. Nearly $5,000 has been raised. The Muscalas have since run out of tickets and are buying more.

— Among new Gophers baseball signees is Delano outfielder Cade Bruett, son of ex-Twins and Gophers outfielder J.T. Bruett, and Orono pitcher Oliver Giel, grandson of ex-Twins and Gophers pitcher Paul Giel.

— Former Twins owner Calvin Griffith, who died in 1999, would have turned 111 this Thursday.
Ex-Gopher Mike Ramsey, who was the youngest player on Herb Brooks’ 1980 Olympic gold medal hockey champions, will turn 62 on Saturday.

— Straight-talking Wild GM Billy Guerin spoke to a full Capital Club house in St. Paul last week. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch speaks to the Capital Club on Thursday at Mendakota Country Club.

— It will be Bob Kurtz Night on Feb. 11 when the Wild honor their retired peerless broadcasting voice for the game against theNew Jersey Devils.
“It’s a nice gesture and certainly not expected and makes you uncomfortable, but other than that, it’s not bad,” said Kurtz, 75, who also broadcast North Stars, Twins and Boston Red Sox games during an award-winning career.

— Former Twins Justin Morneau (2006 MVP, four All-Star Games, NL batting title) and Joe Nathan (377 saves, four All-Star Games), based on having received fewer than 5 percent of votes from the baseball writers association last year, no longer are eligible for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Inexplicably, neither are on the eight-player Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot for players passed over by writers for an election next Saturday.

— Johnson High’s storied boys hockey program will celebrate 110 seasons with assorted alumni games Dec. 10 at Phalen Arena.

Don’t print that

— New Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson starred at Iowa, but as a high school junior at Chariton (Ia.), attended a Gophers summer camp in Minneapolis, hoping to get noticed. He never received an offer from Minnesota.

“When I came here, I loved the city,” he said. “It’s a cool city, a cool campus. (Had he received an offer), it would have been one of my top choices, for sure. I definitely would have been going back and forth, but probably still would have gone to Iowa.”

Iowa has defeated Minnesota eight straight games under coach Kirk Ferentz.

“He’s one of the most consistent guys I’ve ever been around,” Hockenson said. “It doesn’t matter, win or lose, good day, bad day, he’s always got a plan for you. He truly cares about the guys, always asking how your family is doing, knows each guy individually and has a relationship with them. The culture he has built at Iowa truly is one of a kind.”

— Despite his rushing prowess, the Gophers’ Mo Ibrahim is now projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick for April’s NFL draft. The knock on the 5-10, 210-pounder: pass catching and pass protection, and he’s not young — he’ll be 25 years old in September.

Scouts from the Vikings, Packers, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts were at Huntington Bank Stadium for Ibrahim’s 263-yard outing against Iowa.

— In 2016, in Tracy Claeys’ only season as Gophers football coach, home attendance averaged 43,813. In the six seasons since Claeys’ successor, P.J. Fleck has coached, home attendance has averaged 45,018. This season, Gophers home attendance was down an average of 1,977 per game from 2021.

— If Fleck were to leave the Gophers, this season would seem to be his best opportunity in that he has had a veteran team, and Ohio State and Michigan are on the schedule next year, which now looks like a 6-6 record at best.

— The last time the Gophers beat both Iowa and Wisconsin in football in the same season was 1990.

— Gophers 7-1 signee Dennis Evans’ Hillcrest High (Calif.) basketball team is off to a 1-2 start, but he’s averaging 18.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots.

— The market for Twins free agent Carlos Correa won’t be set until New York Yankees free agent Aaron Judge signs. People who would know say the Chicago Cubs are the probable destination for Correa.

— New head golf professional at Minneapolis’ posh Minikahda Club, where there’s a membership waiting list of 89 despite an $85,000 initiation fee, will be Matt Newman from the Medina club.

— Byron Buxton, asked whether injuries might prompt a position change from center field next year: “I’m the center-fielder! It will take somebody better than me to come get it. And I ain’t changing nothing I’m doing. At the end of the day, you want me out there playing hard, or you want me out there lackadaisical? At the end of the day, you can’t have it both ways.”

—American League batting champion Luis Arraez of the Twins, on the secret to hitting: “Hit the ball at the middle, don’t think too much and enjoy.”

—With the NCAA transfer rule now essentially providing free agency for athletes, and with compensation for name, image and likeness (NIL) available, it’ll be interesting whether Marquette pursues St. Thomas’ 6-6 star freshman guard Andrew Rohde, who is from Milwaukee.

— It’s still curious what happened during Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s day-long visit to the Vikings in February, but it’s clear the Vikings made the right choice in Kevin O’Connell. Harbaugh’s No. 3 Wolverines clobbered No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday.

— Ex-Wild winger Zach Parise, 38, has five goals and four assists and is a plus-7 for the 14-8 New York Islanders.

— Interestingly, the recent Vikings-Bills game in Buffalo, won by the Vikings 33-30 in overtime, was bizarre among sports betting books even before the stunning ending even began.

Betting opened with the Bills 9.5-point favorites. When reports that QB Josh Allen (sore elbow) might not start, betting dropped to 3.5 points, and ultimately it closed with the Bills favored by 6.5 points.

So, despite the amazing flip-flop ending, the Vikings still ended up covering the spread, and that meant not as much money changed hands as would have been thought during the closing moments.

By the way, 82 percent of money that was bet on the game was bet on the Bills.

— The next FIFA World Cup will be held in North America, including 16 U.S. cities, but not Minneapolis (U.S. Bank Stadium), which didn’t bid due to financial unknowns.

— Entering Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, the Badgers were projected to end up in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky on Dec. 31 in Nashville, Tenn., and the Gophers in the Quick Lane against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 26 in Detroit, per Last year’s Quick Lane Bowl had attendance of 22,321.


—If Herschel Walker wins in Georgia on Dec. 6, do the Vikings get their six draft picks back?

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