The 3 Most Influential Events of the Spring for Vikings

Refresher: The Vikings 2021 Offense by the Numbers
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. © Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up mandatory minicamp on Wednesday, marking the end of formal team activities until late July.

The franchise has a new look, mainly at the top of the food chain, as Minnesota’s ownership onboarded Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager and Kevin O’Connell as head coach after terminating Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer, two men in charge of the Vikings for eight years as a tandem.

This degree of change for Minnesota hasn’t been experienced by fans since 2006. In that season, Rick Spielman was hired and Brad Childress took over as head coach. And Spielman stuck around for 15 years while the Vikings were the NFL’s 13th-best franchise per win percentage, winning 51.3% of games from 2006 to 2021.

That offseason is similar to the current version regarding change, so each transaction and decision is amplified for importance. Now that spring is over for the franchise, these are the three most influential events (in no particular order).

1. Kirk Cousins Re-Signs thru End of 2023 Season

Nov 18, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

No Vikings move this offseason dictated the future more than the extension of Kirk Cousins. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Adofo-Mensah’s choice to re-up with Cousins not only plotted a course for the new energy of the franchise but also defined it. Cousins remaining as QB1 signified Adofo-Mensah’s plan to win now.

The new boss had a golden opportunity to trade Cousins — who had a no-trade clause “back then” — and folks would’ve nodded, smiled, and understood a rebuild was afoot.

Yet, just like every offseason since 2016, the Vikings are building a roster to contend for a Super Bowl. Otherwise, Adofo-Mensah would’ve traded Cousins, looked at Kellen Mond for future plans, or drafted a Kenny Pickett-type for QB1.

But nope. Cousins is back, outfitted a new offense-first coach, and Minnesota will take another crack at playing football in late January and early February.

2. Vikings Sign Za’Darius Smith

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

If retaining Cousins wasn’t a big enough billboard to announce win-now desire, inking Za’Darius Smith was the follow-up declaration. Minnesota now employs a deadly pass-rushing twosome with Smith and Danielle Hunter, one that every playoff-contending team should admire.

Adofo-Mensah could’ve opted to start D.J. Wonnum, a decent pass rusher. Or — the Vikings might have drafted a George Karlaftis type to start as a rookie.

But they didn’t do that. They formulated a plan assuming the clean bills of health for Smith and Hunter are sustainable. If the method works, opposing quarterbacks will fear the Vikings on Sundays. Should one or both encounter injury, all bets are off for the Vikings defense.

Smith signed for three years contractually, but with the devil in the details, his gig is really just a one-year prove-it setup.

3. Adofo-Mensah Manuevers Draft like a Day Trader

The Vikings Most Significant Area of Improvement This Offseason
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The Vikings didn’t draft a single player from an organic draft spot. Every pick was traded by Spielman or Adofo-Mensah — and mostly Adofo-Mensah.

Indeed, the new executive exuded “kid in a candy store” tendencies. And to top off the whirlwind draft, Adofo-Mensah did the unthinkable by trading with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. He provided both franchises with blue-chip wide receivers, courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings.

Conversely, though, on paper, Adofo-Mensah welcomed a slew of dazzling rookies:

R1: Lewis Cine, S (Georgia)
R2: Andrew Booth Jr., CB (Clemson)
R2: Ed Ingram, G (LSU)
R3: Brian Asamoah, LB (Oklahoma)
R4: Akayleb Evans, CB (Missouri)
R5: Esezi Otomewo, DE (Minnesota)
R5: Ty Chandler, RB (North Carolina)
R6: Vederian Lowe, OT (Illinois)
R6: Jalen Nailor, WR (Michigan State)
R7: Nick Muse, TE (South Carolina)

And based on the way the Vikings approached free agency — almost minimalist, at times — the draft was absolutely influential. It had to be.


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).