Vikings star Justin Jefferson lobbies for Kirk Cousins’ return to Minnesota

The Minnesota Vikings have dealt with numerous setbacks at the quarterback position this season. Veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear during an October game against the Green Bay Packers.

Cousins has faced his share of criticism throughout his lengthy NFL career. Before the injury, Cousins was having one of his best seasons as a pro. The 35-year-old signal-caller is scheduled to enter the free agent market in the offseason. Many believe the Vikings will consider moving on from Cousins and try to find a future franchise quarterback.

Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson expressed his support for the oft-maligned quarterback. 

“I feel like I’m always voicing my opinion on Kirk,” Jefferson said. “As much as people downgrade him and not want to give him his credit, I’m always the person that always gives him his credit.”

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Justin Jefferson (18) of the Minnesota Vikings talks to Kirk Cousins (8) after their 28-24 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium Sept. 24, 2023, in Minneapolis. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Jefferson is widely considered the best overall wide receiver in the NFL and will next season enter the fifth year of his rookie contract. He will likely land a lucrative extension this offseason, but it appears he strongly prefers to catch passes from Cousins in 2024.

“I’m always blessed and just accepting of the person that he was for me, the player that he was for me and this team just by being that leader and being that captain, controlling the game, controlling where the ball goes and making great throws,” Jefferson said. 

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“I think the rest of the world definitely realizes that at this very moment.”

Cousins threw for 2,331 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions through eight games this season. Although he has been sidelined for several weeks, his 291.4 passing yards per game still leads the league. 

Kirk Cousins throws ball

Kirk Cousins (8) of the Minnesota Vikings throws during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Oct. 29, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Cousins attended his first game since the injury Sunday when Minnesota lost 30-24 to the Lions. He provided Jefferson with a little extra hype before the All-Pro receiver was announced to the home crowd.

“People don’t see what goes on in the building,” Jefferson said. “They don’t see the relationships that go on, don’t see the connection that goes on. Me and Kirk have a great connection.”

Asked if he’ll make his feelings known to the organization about whether Cousins should return, Jefferson said he doesn’t feel it’s necessary.

“I feel like I really don’t have to voice my opinion that much,” Jefferson said. “You can just really look at the stats and look at the play, especially before he went down this year. But I definitely will always give that extra word or two for Kirko.”

Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson

The Minnesota Vikings’ Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson watch a replay during the second half of a game against the Detroit Lions Dec. 11, 2022, in Detroit.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Rookie Jaren Hall, journeyman Joshua Dobbs and Nick Mullens have all started games since Cousins went down with an injury. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said the team is “working through” who will start in Week 17 against Green Bay.

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Jefferson stopped short of advocating for a specific quarterback to take over the starting duties down the stretch, although he did praise Hall for how he’s developed this season.

“I feel like Jaren is definitely a great quarterback,” Jefferson said when asked about Hall. “He has definitely some potential to spark this offense up if we put him out there to play. We have confidence in whoever.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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