Vikings GM Explains “Win-Now” Mindset for 2022

Free Agency
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

New Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah showed three smoking-gun pieces of evidence this offseason, proving the franchise was “in it to win it” once again in 2022.

  1. Kirk Cousins was extended through the end of 2023.
  2. Danielle Hunter was not traded.
  3. Za’Darius Smith was signed in free agency.

Rebuilding teams don’t make such moves, so the tear-it-down approach craved by some fans did not occur. Instead, Adofo-Mensah implemented a policy of “competitively rebuilding,” a strategy he believes will allow Minnesota to live in the now and in the future.

The 40-year-old executive explained the mindset more this week to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Pelissero point-blank asked Adofo-Mensah, “Do you believe you’ve got a window to win with this roster right now?”

Minnesota’s GM replied:

I think that’s what I’ve tried to say a lot in the offseason. Yes, I think we do, but I also wanted to do it a way that we keep are window open for the future. So, that’s the whole ‘competitive rebuild’ and all those terms you try and put together that people don’t understand. But I think, really, that’s what we tried to do. We added good players, but I don’t think we did in a way that will kind of forfeit our future for us, and that was important.

– Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Why is this noteworthy? Simple. The Vikings are notorious for avoiding rebuilds while other NFL teams embrace them. And because Minnesota stagnated in mediocrity amid the last two years — a record of 15-18 (.454) in 2020 and 2021 will do that — many onlookers thought the “the young analytics guy” would singe the depth chart and start fresh.

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Conversely, Adofo-Mensah hired Kevin O’Connell, who just won a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford, a quarterback considered a career “loser” per quarterback record until 2021. Together, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell evaluated the roster, the salary cap, peeked at the 2022 NFL Draft class, and decided something to the effect of “wowzers, we can win now.”

Otherwise, Adofo-Mensah would’ve traded Cousins, who did not have a no-trade clause until his recent extension. He probably should have traded Hunter for draft capital and shied away from the Za’Darius Smith free-agency sweepstakes, too, if he sought to fundamentally “start over.”

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Nevertheless, here we are. When Minnesota unexpectedly won the NFC North in 2015 during Mike Zimmer’s second year, it trained itself to believe in Super Bowl contendership thereafter. The 2022 season — led by new people — marks the seventh consecutive season of Vikings football peppered with Super Bowl aspirations.

Back in January, after Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer departed, there was a tender handful of weeks when nobody knew if the young GM would effectuate a full rebuild.

Alas, he did not and intrinsically endorses a “competitive rebuild,” where the team remains focused on winning but with a keen eye on the future.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).