Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is expected to hit the ground running after doing the interview rounds on Thursday. It’s a new era for the Vikings, and that era is being kick-started on the premise that there’s no need for a reboot button in Minnesota.
Most of the championship formula is already on the roster.
The Vikings have one of the best running backs in the league in Dalvin Cook, and their pass rush topped the entire league in sacks before injuries and illness beat them to hell. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn are an embarrassment of riches at receiver. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. will be healthy and returning next season.
And Kirk Cousins is at least serviceable as a good starting quarterback to rely on in games. Adofo-Mensah could literally be a few moves away from turning things completely around for the Vikings. The 2022 season could look like night and day compared to 2021.
Here are five things for Adofo-Mensah to address right out of the gates.
Fans react to Vikings hiring Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as GM
Hire a head coach
This is an easy one. So we might as well get it out of the way.
The Vikings are still searching for a replacement for recently fired head coach Mike Zimmer. Owner Mark Wilf said the plan was to hire a GM and let that person have a say in the coaching hire. Well, Adofo-Mensah is officially the man with the job title, and some of the options are already dwindling.
Decisions are being made, and people are on the move.
Adofo-Mensah has close ties with the San Francisco 49ers organization, which makes defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel intriguing candidates right out of the gates.
But it also remains to be seen how much of a direct influence he’ll have on the decision. He might merely have an opinion with the decision ultimately being made by Vikings ownership.
Figuring out what to do with Kirk Cousins
One of the biggest decisions Adofo-Mensah will make as Vikings GM is handling Cousins’ contract. He could simply make the decision not to do anything about it in 2022, although the team would be slapped with a $45 million cap hit, which is the third-highest among all quarterbacks in the NFL.
Adofo-Mensah wouldn’t flat out release Cousins and leave a ton of dead money on the table. So he’s instead left with the options of trying to trade him, extending him to a new deal and restructuring his contract or as mentioned above, he could choose to do absolutely nothing.
Cousins isn’t an elite quarterback, but there also aren’t a lot of options out there to replace him. He’s still a good enough player to win a lot of football games with next season and possibly even compete in the playoffs. However, if the Vikings make the decision to move on, they are essentially hitting the reboot button on their team.
Deciding if Danielle Hunter is trade bait
The Vikings are $12.1 million over the cap with key contracts coming due. It could make sense for them to move on from the bloated contract of edge rusher Danielle Hunter and see if they could get something nice in return for their troubles.
Top-end pass rushers are a coveted commodity on the trade market, and Hunter is clearly one of the best in the business when he’s healthy. Don’t think for one second a desperate team like the New York Jets wouldn’t pounce at the opportunity to land a disruptive defensive force.
Hunter is only 27 years old and a former second-team All-Pro player with 60.5 sacks to his name. Adofo-Mensah likely isn’t looking to rock the boat this early, but he could be forced to listen if the right offer comes through on the phone.
Allowing pending free agents to test the market
With the team being in cap trouble, Adofo-Mensah has to accept the fact that he can’t keep everyone. Anthony Barr, Sheldon Richardson, Patrick Peterson, Everson Griffen, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Woods, Nick Vigil, Tyler Conklin and Greg Joseph are all free agents heading into 2022.
The Vikings are going to have to be good with letting most of them test the free agent market. If they can get bigger deals elsewhere, then so be it. One of the goals this season should also be an influx of younger talent on the defensive side of the ball.
That means Adofo-Mensah needs to really focus on using the draft to help with the team’s defensive renovation project. Now, obviously, if they can get veteran guys to come back on team-friendly deals, it’s equally as important for the team to pull the trigger on those moves.
But there shouldn’t be any forcing them, either.
Choosing the best way to use the No. 12 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft
All of the above decisions will factor into what Adofo-Mensah ultimately decides to do with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
If the team decides Cousins isn’t the future, they could shock the world and go with a quarterback in the first round. It wouldn’t be fair to close the book completely on Kellen Mond, but it’s also important to note that he couldn’t even beat out Sean Mannion for the backup job.
Coach Zimmer didn’t even want to see him in the season finale, despite the team already being out of the playoffs.
Of course, the Vikings could do the right thing and go with defense with their first pick. Any help would be nice for a unit that gave up the second-most total yards in the league last season. If Adofo-Mensah wants to win big games, he must address the defensive issues first.