MINNEAPOLIS - Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is about two months into being an NFL general manager and in the middle of his first free agency period as the head of a front office.
So does he build the Minnesota Vikings’ roster to win now, or make a concerted and deliberate effort to build for the future? His rebuttal: Why can’t you have both?
He’s started NFL free agency with a handful of roster decisions that lead you to believe the Vikings can and will try to do just that: Win now, and build beyond 2022.
"I think when people look at teams, they can sometimes do it in a very binary way. They ask are you either all-in, or are you tearing it down and rebuilding? I don’t really look at the world that way," Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday morning from TCO Performance Center. "The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds."
The Vikings gave Kirk Cousins a one-year contract extension that provides about $14 million in salary cap flexibility. They re-worked Adam Thielen’s contract, and turned money from Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith into a signing bonus for cap relief.
They’ve signed Harrison Phillips, Jordan Hicks and most recently Za’Darius Smith as key components to their new-look 3-4 defense, and added tight end Jonny Mundt and offensive lineman Austin Schlottmann. There’s still holes in the secondary, which Adofo-Mensah says can be addressed through free agency, the NFL Draft and even player development within the Vikings.
"You’re always trying to live in both worlds and see what things today maybe affect tomorrow. The salary cap is obviously a part of that," Adofo-Mensah said. "As always, we’ll be detailed, we’ll be thorough, we’ll be intentional about what we do and hope we end up in the right place."
There’s still work to do if the Vikings intend to be the team different from the one that’s missed the NFC Playoffs the last two seasons, causing the front office and coaching staff to change entirely. We’ll find out after the NFL Draft the continued vision Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have for the franchise moving forward.
VIKINGS STICK WITH KIRK COUSINS DESPITE TRADE RUMORS
When NFL free agency opened, there were plenty of rumors about the Vikings trading Kirk Cousins, who was due to make $45 million guaranteed in 2022. Instead, they opted to give him a one-year extension, $35 million, a signing bonus and saved nearly $14 million against the salary cap.
Cousins passed for more than 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season. But for the third time in his four seasons with the Vikings, they missed the NFC Playoffs. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell were on the same page inside TCO Performance Center: They wanted to work with Cousins and see how far the Vikings can go with new coaching.
"It was really just about we have a really good player. We just talked about forming a partnership together and seeing how high we can take this thing together," Adofo-Mensah said. "Getting him in the fold, getting him to buy-in was a win-win solution. We’re excited to have him."
VIKINGS SEEKING LONG-TERM DEAL FOR DANIELLE HUNTER?
One of the biggest offseason questions surrounded star defensive end Danielle Hunter, especially when reports surfaced in recent weeks that the Vikings were looking for trade partners. Hunter was due and received an $18 million roster bonus on Sunday. The team has since turned that into signing bonus for relief against the salary cap.
Hunter had six sacks in seven games last season before it ended with a torn pectoral muscle. He missed all of 2020 after having neck surgery. He’s one of the most dominant defensive players in the game, and now has Za’Darius Smith as a teammate. Adofo-Mensah hinted Wednesday the Vikings want him long-term. He’s due to make $8.6 million against the cap in 2023.
"He’s a really great player, you don’t just move on from great players. He’s somebody we’re excited to have back in the fold, and every option is on the table for him," Adofo-Mensah said.
WILL PATRICK PETERSON RETURN?
Patrick Peterson came to the Vikings last season on a one-year deal. He made 45 tackles in 13 starts, missing three games with a hamstring injury. His only interception of the season came in the final game against the Bears.
Peterson said on his podcast he’d like to return to the Vikings in 2022 if possible. The team’s current cornerbacks under contract are Kris Boyd, Cameron Danztler, Harrison Hand and Parry Nickerson. Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum have the most experience at safety. The Vikings could use a veteran in the secondary. Adofo-Mensah says conversations between the Vikings and Peterson are ongoing.
"He texted me the other day. He’s a great person, been a great player in this league for a long time. We’re trying to be solutions-oriented about everything we do here, you want to make sure that you respect a player of his caliber and his expertise in this league, but also the reality of the situation we’re in," Adofo-Mensah said.
VIKINGS MOVING ON FROM ANTHONY BARR?
The reality exists that Anthony Barr has played his last game with the Vikings. He started 11 games last season and missed time with a knee issue. He also played just two games in 2020 due to a torn pec. He made 72 tackles and had 2.5 sacks last season. He came back to Minnesota after nearly leaving for the New York Jets in 2019.
Adofo-Mensah was asked about Barr’s future on Wednesday.
"I had a conversation with him the other day. That’s going to be a tougher situation to navigate. Never say never," Adofo-Mensah said. "Those decisions are tough, but ultimately sometimes they have to be made."
There’s still work to do if the Vikings intend to be the team different from the one that’s missed the NFC Playoffs the last two seasons, causing the front office and coaching staff to change entirely. We’ll find out after the NFL Draft the continued vision Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have for the franchise moving forward. The Vikings have eight draft picks, including No. 12 overall.