The Vikings have announced today that cornerback A.J. Jefferson has signed his restricted free agent tender, officially returning to the team for 2013. Jefferson, who was undrafted out of Fresno State in 2010, came to Minnesota via a trade last September. He wound up starting seven games, thrust into a heightened role in the second half of the season after Chris Cook broke his wrist in a Week 8 loss to Tampa Bay.
Jefferson became a restricted free agent last month but there was never any doubt that he'd be back with the Vikings.
According to team stats, Jefferson recorded 31 tackles and 13 passes defensed last season. Upon Cook's return late in the year, he slid inside as the Vikings' nickel back. But he may have an elevated role again in 2013 depending on what the Vikings do in the draft and how the free-agent decision of Antoine Winfield plays out.
At present, the Vikings' top three corners under contract are Cook. Josh Robinson and Jefferson. Winfield, meanwhile, remains a free agent 31 days after the Vikings released him. Winfield visited with the Redskins two weeks ago and was in Seattle this week exploring his options. Despite reports earlier this week that the Seahawks may have been closing in on a deal with Winfield, the 35-year-old cornerback remains unsigned. And all indications are that the Vikings are still making a push to bring Winfield back.