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ORLANDO – The Vikings will try for a second time to finalize a contract extension with wide receiver Justin Jefferson after the team and receiver paused talks without a deal the day before the 2023 season.

They've resumed those conversations this winter, with General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah saying Jefferson should be the highest-paid receiver in the league. As they've done so, Kevin O'Connell said Monday, the coach has kept Jefferson informed through each step of the Vikings' quarterback change.

Jefferson publicly supported a return for Kirk Cousins several times toward the end of the season before the quarterback picked a four-year, $180 million offer from the Falcons over the Vikings' offer to bring him back. The receiver, who posted more receiving yards than any player in NFL history through his first four seasons, caught 28 of his 30 touchdown passes with Cousins throwing him the ball.

But while O'Connell said he felt "very strongly" about keeping Jefferson informed, he said he did not believe the receiver needed to know the Vikings' plan to replace Cousins before he would sign an extension.

"I've talked with him several times, just check-ins here and there. And then, clearly recently [as Cousins left for the Falcons]," O'Connell said at the NFL owners' meetings. "When they've played together, they've done a lot of really special things. That's not lost on me, and that's not lost on Justin. … I feel very strongly about keeping him [informed]. He's been in the loop. He's been aware. He's allowed to articulate things to me, and that's really been through this whole process."

The Vikings signed Sam Darnold to a one-year contract after Cousins left in free agency and could take a quarterback in the first round of next month's draft. If that happens, O'Connell said, he sensed Jefferson could be excited about mentoring a young QB.

"Nobody's had more success through the first four years of their career than Justin Jefferson. That's fact, that's not just my opinion," O'Connell said. "And that can go a long way for young quarterbacks, to have a guy like that, in addition to Brian O'Neill and T.J. [Hockenson]. Jordan [Addison] had a great rookie year, and Aaron Jones has been wildly successful. So you just think about what we have, I think it's a pretty special time, and I know Justin's looking at it like that, as well. And I hope we get his contract taken care of and he continues to be that pillar of leadership."

Wilf: Vikings can win while developing young QB

The 2024 season will be the Vikings' 20th under the Wilf family's ownership. The team will have a new quarterback and could have a rookie at the position if it drafts a QB who wins a training camp competition with Darnold.

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To co-owner Mark Wilf, though, the changes at the quarterback position don't mean the Vikings have to take a step back in 2024.

"We want to win every single game and every step along the way," Wilf said. "It's important our fans know that's always our commitment. So that's how we approach it."

Wilf talked several times about wanting the Vikings to build for "sustained success": regular division championships, deep playoff runs and Super Bowl championships. The team has not picked higher than ninth in the draft since 2012, though, and has been forced to navigate a tight salary cap in recent years after signing Cousins in 2018, without the influx of young, cheap talent that can come from several years of picking near the top of the draft.

Asked if the Vikings could win at the same time they develop a young QB, Wilf said: "I think it can happen. I believe it's happened in other organizations, as well. That's what we think."

Combine, draft still in play for Vikings

The league's contract with Indianapolis to host the NFL combine expires in 2025, and Minneapolis emerged at this year's combine along with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Nashville as a candidate to host the event in the future.

While Wilf said the Vikings continue conversations with the league about "potentially" hosting the combine, he made a stronger push for the Twin Cities as an NFL draft host.

"I know it's been going around the NFC North to have the draft," Wilf said, referring to Detroit hosting this year and Green Bay in 2025. "Why not Minnesota? We've proven we can do big events in an incredibly special way. Our facilities, and more importantly, the people, the way the community steps out. So I think we've put a lot of effort into the draft. We'd love to have an upcoming draft here in the not-too-distant future, and they're well aware of that interest."