Justin Jefferson 'not mad' after Kirk Cousins' departure from Minnesota

'I feel like he just wanted a new start'

There’s no hard feelings between Justin Jefferson and his former quarterback.

After six seasons as the Minnesota Vikings' QB, Kirk Cousins signed a four-year, $180 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, including $100 million guaranteed. After being one of the most dynamic quarterback-receiver duos in the league over the past four seasons, Jefferson understands why Cousins made his decision to look elsewhere.

“I always knew that Kirk was going to do whatever he needs to do for [him] business-wise," Jefferson said Tuesday on the Rich Eisen Show. "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 [Darnold] or if it's J.J.[McCarthy], I'm going to make it as easy as possible for him."

In Jefferson’s last full season with the Vikings back in 2022, he made first-team All-Pro, logging 1,809 yards and 128 receptions. In 2023, he missed seven games due to injury but still managed to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth straight year.

His production earned him a four-year, $140 million contract extension with $110 million guaranteed from the Vikings last month. It makes him the highest-paid non QB in the NFL.

Jefferson also spoke about his new potential quarterback for the season, with Minnesota signing the veteran Darnold while also drafting McCarthy 10th overall. The star receiver talked about what it’s like getting acclimated to a new signal-caller.

“I feel like Sam is doing a great job with just communicating, just connecting with the players. He understands that he’s the new guy,” Jefferson said. “We have to bond with him and we have to create the connection and chemistry with him.

“He’s an older guy, it’s not like he’s new into the league. He kinda knows how to socialize, how to talk and communicate with us, not just about football, but just in general talking about different things just how like me and Kirk used to do. To have Sam in there, more of a veteran, older mindset [and] to have JJ come in and learn from him as well is definitely something we needed.”