The Vikings have a history of locking down players that have proven themselves before they get to the point of free agency. They’ve been consistent about developing players and, when that player lives up to or exceeds those expectations, the reward is waiting for them.
Wide receiver Jarius Wright became the latest player in that organizational trend, as the Vikings signed him to a four-year, $14.8 million contract extension through the 2019 season.
Wright and the Vikings had been in talks since training camp and Wright was confident in Mankato that something would get done, but, until it happened, he was waiting for a deal to get finalized. When he put pen to paper, it was the culmination of a growing process that has turned him into a valued member of the Vikings offense.
“It’s definitely a dream come true – not only the dream to get a chance to play in the NFL, but also a dream to get a second contract in the NFL,” Wright said. “Growing up, I was always told that ‘you’re too small’ and ‘you couldn’t do it’ or something like that. Just for me to prove everybody wrong and for me to help everybody that was with me on my side, I just appreciate everyone who stood behind me.”
While there had been some whispers about getting a deal done, Wright had kept it quiet – to the point that the local media found out about it even before Wright told his family and friends.
“I did a good job of kind of keeping it under wraps,” Wright said. “They don’t even know. Y’all know before my family knows. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flak about it.”
Wright’s role has incrementally grown in his first three seasons. As a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, Wright caught 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers increased in 2013 (26-434-3) and he became one of Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite targets when he became the starter last year, setting career highs with 42 catches for 588 yards and two touchdowns.
Wright had been hopeful that a deal could get struck, but stressed that it wasn’t a huge priority. He knew that if he kept producing, the reward would follow and, over the last month, the Vikings came to the same conclusion.
“I was just patient,” Wright said. “The Vikings finally felt like it was time to start talking deals and I’m glad we got something we both could agree on and both be happy with. Personally, I’m just going to come out and be the same player I’ve been the first four years.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman praised the job Wright has done with the Vikings as both a player on the field and an emerging team leader off the field. In a statement released by the team, Spielman said making sure the Vikings kept Wright was a priority.
Wright said he was moved by the confidence the organization showed in him. He came in as a rookie with no guarantee of getting playing time. He was going to have to earn everything he got and he was thrilled to see that coaches and front office types were aware of the hard work he put in from the day he arrived at Winter Park.
“Being from a small town in Arkansas to come here to Minnesota and get an extension, it shows me how they feel about me,” Wright said. “It’s a great feeling to know that a NFL team wants you to come back and play for them.”
Wright may have some, as he likes to say, “big paper” in his bank account, but said he is still going to play as if he needs to earn every dollar he was signed for. He isn’t going to change his approach, but did admit that there was a “whew!” factor when he learned the deal was done.
“I’m going to play football regardless of whether I got a contract or not,” Wright said. “I wasn’t going to create any distractions. I was going to be the same leader on and off the field. The timing wasn’t a big deal, but, at the same time, I do have a lot of relief. I can just go out there and play football and not worry about the contract.”