NFL’s Most Valuable Non-QB? Justin Jefferson Contract Raises Question

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Justin Jefferson recently signed a market-altering contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings.

The deal, worth $140 million over four years ($110 million guaranteed), made Jefferson the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, a distinction that raises a fascinating question with regards to modern roster building.

Is wide receiver now the most valuable position besides quarterback?

“It’s being treated as such, obviously, with the contracts and the draft capital we’re seeing with all these receivers going high up in the first round now,” NESN’s Ricky Doyle said last week on the latest episode of “The Spread” podcast. “It’s pretty clear there’s an emphasis on receivers.”

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“The argument in favor of receivers is that the passing game is that important in today’s NFL,” he added.

For years, other positions were held in higher regard, from a contractual standpoint. Elite pass rushers, for instance, garnered massive paydays, whereas franchises seemingly were reluctant to overexert themselves for top-notch receivers.

The NFL evolved, though, with explosive, passing-centric offenses now taking center stage. And players like Jefferson — arguably the best wide receiver in the league — therefore are being rewarded handsomely.

“The best quarterbacks can succeed without elite wide receivers. And I think the best wide receivers can succeed without elite quarterbacks, to an extent,” Doyle said, trying to make sense of the current landscape. “But at the same time, there’s no denying that it’s this symbiotic relationship, where the wide receiver at least needs some steady quarterback play.”

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Perhaps the easiest way to attack the debate — although not necessarily the easiest way to answer the question — is by considering a full-scale NFL draft involving every player in the league: At what point do non-quarterbacks start coming off the board? And who are those players?

Age and contracts aside, Jefferson headlines a crazy-talented group of wide receivers that includes Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown, among others. On the defense side, there’s no denying the impact guys like Micah Parsons, Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa and T.J. Watt can make.

So, when it comes to pinpointing the most valuable non-QB in the NFL, Jefferson is as good an answer as any — right now. But there are a lot of factors involved, and the conversation could shift before you know it.

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