Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, coach Kevin O'Connell talk Kirk Cousins at NFL Combine

The Minnesota Vikings, along with the 31 other NFL teams, are well-represented at this week’s NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

But the Vikings are among a few teams with a new look at the annual event to showcase upcoming draft picks and future prospects. It’s the first combine for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as the new leader of Minnesota’s front office. It’s the first time Kevin O’Connell is at the combine as an NFL head coach, fresh off winning a Super Bowl as the Rams’ offensive coordinator.

While they work together to put their first NFL Draft board together and see prospects in action, there’s also one potential cloud hanging over the team: The quarterback situation. We all know the number this year by now. Kirk Cousins is due $35 million in base salary for the 2022 season, plus a $10 million signing bonus. That’s $45 million against the team’s salary cap.

Indications are that he’s not interested in restructuring his contract for a pay cut, and the only way to fix that is with an extension. Or they could pursue a trade if a team is interested. Between the introductory media sessions with Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, and the talk at the NFL Combine, everything points to Cousins being the Vikings’ quarterback for 2022.

Cousins is coming off one of the better statistical seasons of his career. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. But the Vikings went 8-9, and missed the NFC Playoffs for the third time in his four seasons with Minnesota.

"I think what you know about Kirk is when the odds are shifted in his favor, he gets the most out of it. I think people don’t appreciate that skill enough. He’s incredibly consistent, an incredibly accurate thrower," Adofo-Mensah said earlier this week. "He’s tough, durable. He plays every game, stands in there every game and takes those hits."

Adofo-Mensah isn’t wrong when he talks about Cousins taking hits. Cousins was sacked 28 times this past season. In 2020, 39 times. In his first season with the Vikings in 2018? He was sacked 40 times, the second-most in his career. The odds are in Cousins’ favor when the offensive line gives him time to read a defense, and keeps him upright.

O’Connell has said from his first day with the Vikings that he plans to focus everything on the offense around what Cousins does well. He also said this week it’s not just on Cousins for the Vikings’ offense to find success, it’s on all 11 players on the field. The same goes for defense and special teams.

"I really look at it as how are you putting the 11 guys in the huddle in whatever phase you’re playing in – offense, defense or special teams – how are you putting those guys in the best possible situation to have success snap in and snap out? Then what are you building upon that to continue to gain that advantage as games go on, seasons go on and you build that sustained success from there," O’Connell said earlier this week.

If Cousins does stay with the Vikings and it’s for $45 million, that means Adofo-Mensah has roster decisions to make among the 18 free agents heading into 2022. Some of those names include Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Vigil and Xavier Woods.

While the main conversation is about Cousins' future in Minnesota, Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell are also tasked with fixing a defense that was among the bottom of the NFL the last two seasons.