Kwesi Showed His Cards. Now It’s Time for the Obvious Move.

NFC Rivals Could Play Spoiler to Ideal Vikings Draft Scenario
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah the team's year-end press conference for the 2022 season after losing to the New York Giants in the playoffs.

The Vikings hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in January 2022. Most regime changes happen on bad teams, but the Vikes were different. Closely missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and some dysfunctionality in the organization led to the dismissal of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman. The new man in charge inherited a roster with some talented players.

Kwesi Showed His Cards. Now It’s Time for the Obvious Move.

Spielman acquired that talent. Christian Darrisaw, Justin Jefferson, Kirk Cousins, and Danielle Hunter are among the best players in the NFL. Most new GMs don’t have guys like that under contract, or the roster is bad around them, so they opt to blow it up and ship the remaining talent away for draft capital. Again, the Vikings were different.

Kwesi Showed His Cards, Now It's Time for the Obvious Move
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Adofo-Mensah entered the self-titled competitive rebuild, trying to balance both worlds, that of a competing team and that of a rebuild. That means he should be interested in keeping those building blocks on the team to stay competitive but also to have some guys to build around. Tearing the roster down just to try to find guys of the same caliber doesn’t make sense, although it is the black-and-white thinking of fans and pundits, something Adofo-Mensah has been denying since taking over the franchise.

But it is time to take action instead of only talking about it. Quarterback Cousins might have played his last game with the Vikings before he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. His contract expires in March, and he will be an unrestricted free agent. Adofo-Mensah had two offseasons to get a long-term extension done and opted against that.

Cousins is 35 years old, so the GM perhaps doesn’t view him as the quarterback of the future. Like it or not, not tying himself to an aging quarterback, no matter how well he plays, makes sense. However, he also didn’t give Jefferson a new deal. The 24-year-old is in his prime, and no player has ever been as productive as the former LSU standout in his first three seasons. Similar to Cousins, there was an excuse to just not agree to a contract extension. He is under contract for two more years, and Adofo-Mensah recently mentioned that as the main reason why he still hasn’t been paid.

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Regardless, that kind of understandable reason doesn’t exist when it comes to edge rusher Hunter. When the new GM arrived, everyone knew about his abilities, but Hunter had played a total of seven games in the last two seasons because of two injuries.

Can he return to his peak form and stay healthy? That was the question in the 2022 offseason. The Vikings didn’t extend his contract, for good reason. But he returned to that level, making the Pro Bowl after the 2022 campaign.

After proving he could still be effective and no longer affected by his injuries, he surely got paid the long-term commitment he strived for. Well, he didn’t. The Vikings gave him a raise in the final year of his contract, but he is still scheduled to become a free agent after the season, and Adofo-Mensah cannot use the franchise tag.

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Once again, having an outstanding season, he is the league leader in sacks through Week 8. Hunter was one of the hottest names in trade rumors at the trade deadline. It was easy to trade him for future assets, especially after Cousins went down. But the Vikings kept him around and closed the door on the final chance to move him.

Adofo-Mensah is a value-oriented person. He looks at assets and tries to find ways to maximize their value. Giving him away in free agency doesn’t make sense from that standpoint. There are only two reasons to keep him past the trade deadline. One is that the Vikings want to compete, and they surely need their top pass rusher for that, but that is a lot harder without Cousins. Everyone would’ve understood if they moved on from Hunter.

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The other reason is that the decision-makers view Hunter as a future building block. Although he just turned 29, he should have some more years left. That is why they should look to sign him to a contract extension. For one, Hunter has earned a new contract, putting up huge numbers year after year. In addition, he has been a Viking his whole career, which is another reason to get a deal done. Hunter has also never been a problem off the field. There are no scandals and no legal issues.

If a guy like that, a prototypical player on and off the field, doesn’t get a new contract, who will get one? His teammates and players around the league know the NFL is a business, but it wouldn’t be a good sign if Hunter enters free agency. He deserves to be a Viking, and he deserves every penny of his next contract, and everyone knows it. It is time to come together and find a solution, especially after keeping him past the trade deadline.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt